It’s a sweet Middle Eastern irony that Jiskala Khalayli would rise through the ranks at the Syrian branch of MAN, the German truck maker, then move to Qatar and manage one of the fastest growing women’s associations in the Gulf.
It all happened four years ago when Jiskala and her husband Omar decided to take a chance and start a new life together with their son in Qatar. The economy was booming, jobs were plentiful and it made sense to continue working in the automobile industry.
Soon after arriving in Doha, Jiskala accepted a job offer at Alfardan Automobiles and found herself working for its Director of Business Development, the venerable Aisha Hussein Alfardan. Aisha is also Vice Chairwoman of the Qatari Businesswomen Forum (QBWF) and together with Jiskala in place as Manager, they have built a network of local businesswomen in the last four years that has grown far beyond their expectations.
“We are here,” explains Jiskala, at a recent meeting of the Middle East and North Africa Businesswomen’s Network (MENA BWN), hosted by the QBWF in Doha (QBWF is a Founding Member of the BWN). “Four years ago, we were struggling to tell the world we existed. Today, everyone is approaching us and doors are opening up.”
It wasn’t easy for Jiskala to juggle a full time job at Alfardan and manage the QBWF at the same time. “In the beginning, my new baby was only one month old,” admits Jiskala. “There were long meetings and events at night. It was hard.”
The hard work paid off. Today, word has spread that the QBWF is the place to be for professional and entrepreneurial women in Qatar. In 2009, the Forum sponsored an inaugural Corporate Ambassadors event in partnership with the MENA BWN. Executives from the U.S. led workshops and panel discussions with Qatari counterparts on methods of improving entrepreneurs’ and business professionals’ knowledge and experience, building networking opportunities and offering insights into current global economic issues. The Forum also held its first annual Qatar Business Women Award dinner to recognize achievement in business leadership and management.
A majority of Qatari women work outside the home in all industries, including oil and gas, higher education, healthcare, banking and construction. Women-owned businesses in the country are flourishing and the climate for doing business is improving.
“The QBWF provides the kind of platform these women need for expanding business opportunities and contributing to a more inclusive and prosperous society,” explains Aisha Alfardan. “I am proud to lead this Forum, and I encourage new women business owners and professionals to join together and make a positive impact.”