Everything I know I Learned from My Mother!
One of the main misconceptions that most people have about Arab women is that they are oppressed. Sometimes it is not a question but a statement. I would like to share the example of my mother as a model for how Arab and Muslim women contribute to the world. Yes, the world!
My mom was a medical doctor and a researcher. The main reason our family moved to the U.S. was my mom. She was offered an opportunity to further her research at Southestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas. Eventhough my mother passed away 8 years ago and before that she had Alzheimer's yet when I google her name her research and her writings come up. To me this is very remarkable. Not only did she contribute to further the medical field but she was a compassionate physician who loved and took excellent care of her patients. Her profession and commitment did not come in the way of taking care of and loving her family.
Lessons learned from my mother:
1. Love what you do! That way it would not become work but a pleasure to do it.
2. Love the people. She cared for her patients and to this day I have items that her patients made for her to thank her.
3. Don't be afraid to work hard. She did that not only at work but also at home. Her days did not stop at a certain time.
4. Never stop learning. She was always reading and keeping up with the latest medicines and procedures in her field. She just loved to learn!
5. Never give up! It is really remarkable she made a career change from being in academic medicine and research to pursuing a residency in her 40's. She always had her eye on her goal and worked very hard.
My mom's legacy continues not only with the impact she had on my sister who is a Chemistry Professor and me but also on the next generation. My nieces are so talented and strong. Each one of them is pursuing her dream and that ranges from doing an MD/Ph.D program, to being a pastry chef to working as an Engineer on the oils rigs in the Middle East to being a Student Advisor at a university to studying law to working as a Chief of Staff for a state legislator. We are so proud of the women in our family!
"Cultural Agility" for Successful Business
Working with my clients, I often hear how there are breakdowns in communications due to cultural differences. Lately, I remembered an incident that happened to my husband and I many many years ago. I am just analyzing it and figuring out what went wrong.
It was a late Sunday afternoon before the era of cell phones. We were visiting people we had just met in a city that was about 60 miles away from the little southern town where we had just moved to. On the way back home, our car broke down and we had to walk many blocks to find a house that would let us in to use their phone to call. Well thinking from an Egyptian culture lens, we thought we would use our call to call our new found friend (they have an Egyptian background as well). We called and explained what happened and the response was: "what do you want me to do for you?" This was a total shock for us as the Egyptian culture appropriate response would have been, I will be right over and I will take care of you. After we hung up, my husband and I looked at each other and said -"Why did we call him in the first place?" We then called a tow truck and took the car to the dealership and rented a car.
As an Interculturist, my husband and I were operating from a group mindset - that is what the Egyptian culture or Arab culture is in general. The group takes care of its members and they are there for them. Our friend however was operating from an individualist cultural orientation - that is what the US culture tends to be. Each person is responsible for him/herself. This incident could have impacted the friendship negatively as the expectations were not met but luckily it did not.
Here are suggestions to overcome breakdown in communications due to cultural differences :
1. Be self aware - what is your culture dimensions' preference? In this situation, my husband and I were operating from a group orientation.
2. Figure out where the other person might be coming from. Our friend was operating from an individualist orientation.
3. Identify the gap in communication and decide if you want to bridge this gap and if so, how will you do it. In our situation, it took us a while to get over but now looking back I can see what happened.
My clients working in different cultures face these challenges. To be successful, one has to follow the 3 suggestions above. At Khalifa Consulting, we call this "cultural agility." How agile are you? How agile is your team and colleagues?
As a result of our Gulf Arabs Cultural Training workshop with Khalifa Consulting, we realized that our marketing strategy for the Gulf region will not be effective. We had to rebrand. If it was not for the training, we would not have been successful in our new market! The training was priceless.”