Manar Al Nimer
A determined businesswoman
Middle East Business News & Magazine had the pleasure of meeting Manar Al Nimer, a prominent businesswoman in Amman – Jordan.
Ms. Al Nimer is Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and founding member of MedLabs Consultancy Group that has branches in Jordan, Northern Iraq-Kurdistan, Kuwait, Sudan and Palestine. She is clearly a strong and determined character. With sparkling eyes and a wide smile, she gave us a very warm welcome to her offices in Amman where we had this interesting conversation.
How hard it is being a leading working woman in our society?
Gender stereotypes are always challenging, however, in today’s world women are forced to go against long held stereotypes to better provide for their families where it has become necessary to have two rather than one bread winner in the family. The higher cost of living, good education, and the increased general needs of the family have made it necessary in many families for the wife to become a career woman.
This has created the situation where working women have to balance between family responsibilities and the pressures of work. It has also made it necessary for the husband to be a hands-on father. I do think that in general women are more focused which is a real value in society and business and is without a doubt one of the essential traits of a successful woman. Furthermore, I believe that when women are empowered, they can be better mothers by being aware of the challenges of life in general and better prepare their children for the challenges of the future.
It is not easy to be a leading businesswoman in our society, but times are changing and women have proved their efficiency and capability to overcome many obstacles and stand out positively through their contribution to work and the society.
The main limitations that I have been challenged with were from society, religion and beliefs that stem from different cultures and way of thinking. Yet those have only made me more determined to move forward and try to cause even a slight positive change in the way women are perceived.
What are the most important decisions you make as the CAO of MedLabs?
MedLabs is a dynamic company always adapting and flexible to face new markets and cultures.
I feel privileged and honored to have experienced and played an important part in the different phases of its transformation from foundation to development until it became one of the largest and most respected pathology services companies in the Middle East. MedLabs consists of 42 branches across four countries, employs more than 250 specialists and is still growing; with all this comes huge responsibilities and many important decisions are taken every day.
Personally, I am faced with many critical decisions every day, however, the most important of these are related to human resources issues, especially with the multicultural nature of the staff at MedLabs due to its expansion locally and regionally.
How did working in such a field empower you as a woman?
My position as Chief Administrative Officer is divided between local and regional projects, which requires me to go on business travel one week per month in order to follow up on legal, human resources and administrative aspects of the regional projects.
Travel definitely adds a different dimension to one’s being; it makes you understand people and helps you to become less judgmental.
Travel also, especially business travel, makes you able to observe how different communities think and interact with each other. The business travel that I have been involved in has definitely sharpened the edges of my character. It has made me clearly define and appreciate my value system, and become familiar with those of others. It has forced me to become a stronger, more exposed woman that is able to handle many tough situations I might encounter. It has also made me want to widen the horizons of my children, so that they can have experiences of their own and learn that there is a whole world out there with different cultures and values that they need to explore to enrich their characters.
Which is most important to MedLabs—mission, core values or vision?
All the mentioned items are important and should go hand-in-hand and be synchronized with each other. However, in my opinion, the most important of these at MedLabs’ is our core values. MedLabs’ core values include quality, integrity, group practice, accountability, collaboration and leadership. Quality is not just our commitment it is our driving force. As a leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services, MedLabs has always felt a responsibility to lead the way by example to raise the quality of laboratory healthcare delivery in the region.
What are some patterns you’ve noticed over the years about women at work, and things they could be doing better to advance their careers?
Many women at work demonstrate prejudice against women by differentiating themselves from their male colleagues. Women should not differentiate between male or female colleagues and most of all have to believe that women are as capable as men and they should receive equal opportunities. To achieve this they have to be confident, determined, and continuously seek knowledge development.
The acquisition of knowledge and wisdom is a continuous journey in one’s life. Now that the knowledge I gained from my MSc has matured and is utilised to a great extent, I feel that I am ready to move forward to another level of knowledge. To this end, I began a new phase in my journey one year ago by committing to a PhD program. I am determined to face the challenges of this new phase, despite the difficulties of honoring my responsibilities to my family and MedLabs.
The main problem with women at work is that most of them do not seek a career; to them they see a job that gives them an income to help their families or spoil themselves. They do not seek a career because women are trapped within the concept of the ultimate responsibility of the family, which causes them to compromise their positions and careers and to give their full attention to the family role. I believe that the family is very important, it is the cornerstone of society, but I also believe in collaboration, balancing and partnership and making things happen for every member of the family.
Finally, women also tend to underestimate the role that they can play in the success of the organisation. Women have to be well-prepared, smart, on time, responsive, respectful and have principles. Once they have all those things as part of their character they can overcome obstacles and can build their success story.
How did you overcome any gender-related roadblocks in your career?
By the midpoint of the twentieth century, womens activities and concerns had been recognised as a significant element of the literary and scientific world, marking a revolutionary change in the social and domestic roles of women. Yet, many cultures find it hard to detach from traditions they have been living by.
Whatever the strategy and actions taken, there is no doubt that managers will confront gender-based issues in the workplace especially in the Middle East; most already do, without knowing it. They spend precious time managing situations arising from or exacerbated by gender-based misunderstandings—including their own! Both women and men with useful potential leave the organisation—or end up being asked to leave. Organisations lose women disproportionately because definitions of what is right and good in the workplace are almost always based on a man-made model. Women eventually feel unappreciated and undervalued, and then they dont stick around. Being aware of and confronting gender issues frees managers to take control and turn things around, to the benefit of their staff, their organisations, and ultimately society.
Some Middle East countries (GCC countries that MedLabs has branches in) voice disapproval of women traveling alone. This causes limitations in hiring women or promoting them to positions that require traveling. Also, extended assignments pose difficulties for the womans partner causing her to decline certain opportunities thus hindering her career growth. In many cases, this might not be recognisable to the West, but business travel can be a challenge for women in any culture!
As a business woman, I have experienced certain awkward situations due to my gender. In many instances, I am the only female sitting in a meeting, with the sense that I am unwelcome. I can be speaking to a roomful of people all trying their hardest not to make eye contact with me. Ive even had men addressing the answer to my questions to another man so as not to address me directly – all because Im a woman.
In conclusion, my message is to be unphased by the obstacles. I never accepted gender differences. I just plowed ahead. But I look at our daughters and women in general who continue to struggle. I therefore believe that we all have to work harder to change the status quo. In the Middle East at least, there’s still a glass ceiling to break through.
Ms. Manar Al-Nimer holds an MSc in Transformation Management from the University of Buckingham, UK, and comes from a background of laboratory medicine. Her areas of interest for many years have been in Total Performance Management (TPM) and Human Resources Management. Ms. Al-Nimers experience makes her one of the few experts in the field. She is a founding member of MedLabs Consultancy Group and has grown with the company since its establishment in 1993.
In 2008 Ms. Al-Nimer became a member of MedLabs Board of Directors. Ms. Al- Nimer is currently enrolled in a PhD program under the title “Integral Enterprise Development: Cultural Integration in Self Determining Systems”.