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International Women’s Day: Inspirational Women in the Middle East

Women in business have transcended the need for patronising political correctness. It is no longer just about diversity in the workplace; it is about inclusion and profitability. SMB Advisor Middle East features highly inspirational achievers this month – who just happen to be women.  And Cisco’s Clare Jones is among those inspirational women.

Claire Jones is the UAE Regional Sales Manager for small and medium business for Cisco. She has been working at Cisco for the past 5 years.  She is a British national who moved to Dubai in 1994.

Do you feel empowerment starts with the self?  Absolutely! I believe that every woman has as much of a chance as any man to be successful in business. It is not gender specific. It starts with you. Loving what you do is self-empowerment in itself. It gives you confidence to become the best you can.

Have you worked in other countries besides the UAE? How different have the experiences been?  Although I was not based outside the UAE, I have worked across the entire Gulf, North Africa and Pakistan. My experience has been rewarding in each country. My customers and colleagues have always been respectful of me and what I do.

As a working parent, what would your advice be to professionals who are parents?  I have two children, aged 6 and 2 years. The best advice that I can give to other working parents is, let go of the guilt. Many working parents feel guilty for not spending more time at home with the children. I believe in the quality of time that is spent and not the quantity of time. You should know and believe that you are giving your children the best education, the best opportunities for the best start in life, and in return you are giving yourself the chance to continue to grow and learn every day.

The biggest challenge I faced was the juggling act of managing a home, family and business. My advice is to be in the moment. Wherever you are, be it home or work, be there and don’t let the other disturb your time. And finally make sure that you have a good support system at home and share the responsibilities with your spouse.

What is your advice to other women professionals and entrepreneurs? Enjoy what you do. It’s important to love what you do and not do it because you need to. It is difficult to excel in anything if you don’t enjoy it in the first place.

What is your advice to regional employers?  I believe that it is healthy to have diversity within the employees. This is not limited to gender – but includes culture, age and background. Diversification brings new ideas, new ways of thinking and enables a company to be balanced and ready to adapt to change when it happens (and it will). With regards to women, it is important to remember that they are just as career focused as men, but may have other responsibilities that need to be considered when hiring. For working mothers, consider offering flexible working hours or job sharing options.

As for myself, every day I strive towards the three most important roles in my life – an independent woman, a loving mother and a successful business leader. I believe that I am fortunate to work for a company like Cisco that respects each one of the roles in my life and provides me with the flexibility to enable me to excel in all.

This is one perspective from the Middle East and there are many other inspirational women in the region profiled in the Venus at Work Report.

I believe that we women are past the era where it is a man’s world.  We stand side by side with men as colleagues.  I like to think that we are one team working towards one goal.

How are you recognizing International Women’s Day?  What does it mean to you?

Note: Claire was featured with other women by SMB Advisor Middle East in their Venus at Work Report.

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5 Comments.


  1. Just as an FYI, I am writing daily from Africa about food and agriculture issues for the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog. I’ve been focusing on highlighting women and their innovations to help alleviate hunger and poverty. Here is the link to the site http://www.nourishingtheplanet.org, feel free to check it out. I would love for you to consider cross-posting any posts or to include a link to your site. My personal diary about the trip is called BorderJumpers at http://www.borderjumpers.org. I’m headed to Ghana now, we’ve done research and written about Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Madagascar, and Mauritius. Thanks again for your coverage of International Woman’s Day, Danielle Nierenberg

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  2. Absolutely! I believe that every woman has as much of a chance as any man to be successful in business.””I’m sure that gender isn’t an issue now. There are so many women who penetrate the industry of men, admittedly, all of them are doing great. They are actually successful in their chosen field. So definitely, women are competitive enough nowadays.”

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  3. What a great example Claire Jones is, such an inspriation. International Women’s Day for me is a time to reflect on the great accomplishments…I think there is an amazing wave happening for women but there is still a lot of lost opportunity for women in parts of the world. Change takes time. I think we all need to take time to applaud the great work but also take note and help reach out to those that still may not have the opportunities.

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  4. Ayelet Baron

    Pamela,I recently spoke to a number of women in our Dubai office and they are all so passionate about giving back and community work for women and girls. I have been seeing this as a priority for many in Emerging Markets; not just women. And you are so right, there is so much more work to be done to make real change happen. It’s up to each of us to get involved in the broader world we live in.

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  5. Ayelet Baron

    Danielle,Thanks so much for the information on your blog! I look forward to following your work! I will work on linking our sites as well.

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