Amina Taher is the head of corporate communications for Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. Before joining Etihad, she was head of social development and sponsorship in the group communications unit at Mubadala Development Company in Abu Dhabi. She also co-founded Slices, an organic food and beverage company for children. She has a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard and an MBA from London Business School. She spoke to Runway Girl Network about her renaissance background, her work inspiring others and creating work-life balance as a single mother.
How did you come to work for Etihad?
AT: In 2013, I was approached by a head hunter. I was a bit nervous because aviation was an industry I wasn’t familiar with. The aviation industry is fairly new in the Arab world, especially for women working in aviation, so I wanted to explore the opportunity. Before joining Etihad in January 2013, I took two months off and trained as an amateur boxer and served as a chef so I could get these things off my bucket list before going into corporate life.
You seem to be a real renaissance woman. You have a master’s in public administration from Harvard and an MBA from the London Business School. How do all these pieces fit together in the puzzle of your career?
AT: It has always been very important for me to get a good education. My mother and my grandmother always encouraged us girls to have a career, mainly because she did not have that chance. I have all sisters and I’m the eldest, so I always felt that I needed to be a role model. I always wanted to make sure that my parents were always proud of me and that I could do all the things that boys could do.
As a Muslim woman, how have you navigated your work career?
AT: Timing is really important. When I started school to get my college degree 15 years ago, I wanted to travel abroad but back then there weren’t a lot of opportunities to do that. My parents were very hesitant because they didn’t see a lot of young girls my age from our community who were travelling.
I was lucky to be in UAE because we got equal opportunity in terms of work. We even had access to scholarships for women to study abroad. And when the country started seeing more women studying abroad, parents and society started accepting it. I’m happy and proud knowing that a lot of parents are empowering and encouraging their young women.
Your biography describes you as a strong role model for young entrepreneurs. How have you done this?
AT: When I’m invited to speak at universities, I get a lot of interest from younger women asking about what they should study and how to handle career balance. It gives me so much satisfaction when I see them breaking barriers and going into majors that are untraditional and being dominant. I spend a lot of time with these young girls sharing my career experiences and understanding some of the challenges they have if they want to pursue their careers.
What advice would you have for women who want to embark on a career that’s similar to yours?
AT: Being flexible, adaptable and wanting to continuously learn is very important. Getting out of your comfort zone is also important. You can push boundaries by reading different newspapers and making friends from different countries and different religions to help broaden your knowledge.
Try different things and pursue your dreams and not be afraid. You can still do everything that you want to do while respecting your religion and culture. I learned that sometimes you will fall down and fail, but we need to share failures so that we can encourage each other and learn from them.
Another thing is having good work-life balance and being able to spend enough time with my daughter and for me. I don’t think there will ever be a proper work life balance, but it’s always important to reset your priorities and consistently readjust them.