We initiated the first TWICE here in Doha and it was challenging!
On the 23rd March 2017, the Twice Qatar Network was born as part of the human fresco challenge for the TWICE Annual Event. Last December, alongside my friend Rkia Najmi and the TWICE COPIL, we launched the first edition of the TWICE Town Hall here in Doha which is to be run four times a year. The concept is to contribute through exchange, best practices, questions, tips and advice to raise awareness about gender diversity in the work place. The first Town Hall event gave us a great platform to raise topical issues but the event was challenging. Despite a great turn out of male and female attendees, limited questions were raised and discussions were stilted. I was expecting women and men to share their stories, positive or negative, but I realised that many employees weren’t ready to speak up. We are now working on the TWICE image to promote the benefits of the forum and to emphasize that it is not a feminist group. It provides a great opportunity to network and to explore possibilities of promoting gender balance in the oil and gas business where women represent only 20% of employees. A recent survey showed that having gender diversity brings value to the industry. It has been proven that companies with a higher representation of women on their top management experience better financial performances. Men and women should be working together to fight the gender gap for the benefit of the whole company. Total needs to be on board to push forward if it wants to position itself optimally for the future; that’s the key. More can and should be done in 2018. Working as a British geologist in a Middle-Eastern affiliate is eye opening. I changed many opinions regarding some of my pre-conceived western ideas. For example, I expected women to be less respected in the workplace with less of a voice. I was wrong. Women are highly valued in the workplace and speaking up in meetings is encouraged. In addition to breaking misunderstood notions, I also learned many tips on how to build trusting work relationships with Qatari colleagues. For instance, when interacting with locals within the professional domain, it is crucial to make time for casual chat. Another example is being cautious of a handshake; when greeting someone, women should wait to see if a man extends his hand before shaking it. Additionally, dressing inappropriately at the office can be offensive so long sleeves are expected to cover the elbows and knees. This aspect however is not linked to gender discrimination and is simply part of the religious culture here. It is important that this differentiation is understood in order to pinpoint the areas where the TWICE network can have an impact to help close the gender gap. TWICE is now starting to be known in the TEPQ affiliate with nearly 40 members. The next TWICE Town Hall is coming up in May and I am confident that the numbers will grow. There are already 3000 TWICE members worldwide within Total and after such a positive start here in Doha, we need to make sure that we continue to contribute to the movement.