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HR Feminism

A Female Fresh-Grad

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It goes without saying that a strong woman who is able to speak her mind can handle many of the obnoxious situations she faces at work from her male managers and sometimes co-workers. However, in such a patriarchal society, without a strong open-minded boss, their voice does not always make a difference, nor is it heard within their workplace.

A lot of women are raised in a way that makes it easy to miss the thin line between shutting their mouths out of respect for their elders, and speaking their mind in order to stand up for their rights. For younger people, when the male figure is mainly the father and some schoolteachers, too many years are spent impacting the girls’ confidence and the way they respect and view themselves. Girls are taught that criticism, arguing and sometimes simply conversing with an elder – especially a male one – is disrespectful. Then comes the awkward (especially if the girl has been raised in a girls’ only school) transitional phase of the University, before bumping into the real and ugly one: THE EMPLOYMENT phase.

For the majority of fresh graduates, work is a whole new universe. Affected by the social pressures faced during their adolescence, fresh employees can easily fall victims to maltreatment and disrespect from their fellow male managers. It is very common for managers to – as a popular saying in Egypt goes – ‘check the pulse’ of the new employees. Some employees tend to prove from day one that they will be a pain in the ass if anyone thinks of crossing them. However, many young ladies get confused and their vision becomes blurred. They cannot tell whether this manager’s shouting, asking them to perform this extra duty, refusing to approve their leaves etc… is ‘normal’ and that’s how an employee’s life should be, or if there’s something wrong with the way they are being treated.

Months after months, the ladies realize they are much more at ease speaking up to their female seniors than their male ones. Moreover, they get hit in the face with the fact that most of this was happening because they are “female” and probably ended up with a not-so “female-friendly” male manager, and not a very strong supervisor who could stand up for them.

There is no doubt that both actors here; the lady and the manager, have both been victims to an on-going endless vicious circle of patriarchy and sexism that we have been blindly dealing with in our society, resulting in the sad current state of disrespecting women.

So, what is step 1? Remember, it is never okay to stay silent when something simply does not feel right; from having a one-sided conversation to miraculously being convinced you are somehow not entitled to your rights at work, speaking up is the solution, despite it being a hard process. You have to gather your strengths, be prepared for the confrontation and be ready with your arguments. In such cases, working in a professional manner always helps: Keeping your interactions at work as formal as possible, your formal communication with your colleagues always documented through e-mail exchanges, and in critical situations always inform your immediate supervisors.

Last but not least: Personnel manual? Memorize it by heart! And yes it might sound stupid that you have to be prepared as if going for a rap battle; however, it IS a battle! When thinking you are now fighting all the taboos, the social norms that silenced you, fighting to finally position yourself in the place where you have been working but not really listened to, it is a battle worth fighting and winning!

Bottom line is, you are not alone. But it is your choice to stay silent, or to speak up, shine, and get the respect deserve. We do not choose our family or our society, but after we digest our surroundings, we can definitely choose who we are and who we want to be.

*This article does not aim to generalize the situation of women in Egypt. For those who had a better chance growing up in an open-minded family and those who have a strong outstanding personality, may you be a source of inspiration and strength to all women and men around you.

Deena Ossama

Photography: Hadeer El’Masry

EDITORS: Mennat-Allah Yasser Zohny & Nada Adel Sobhi

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Articles

My first Work Abuse Experience was from another Woman! ~ Work Diaries

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Written
By: Dr. Hanan Abd El Moniem
Translated By: Mahmoud Mansi

In my early career, I was lucky to accidentally meet the CEO of the company I worked for in the elevator. I was excited because she was the first female to become a CEO in the Oil and Gas sector in Egypt. She wasn’t smiling as I was, and later on it was announced in the company that no one is allowed to use the elevator with the CEO! By the end of the week I was surprised to find myself transferred into another department and given responsibilities that were lower than my qualifications.

I spent 3 days suffering, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I understood from now on, that the management style was based on fear and authority, and in suppressing the ambitious people of the company so they can “know their limits”!

It is ironic that my first work abuse experience was from another woman, who was assigned as CEO in the first place to promote gender equality!

I refused the rules of the corporate where the strong people are the unfair or unethical, I had to establish my own powers, which were education and patience. That’s when I decided to invest more of my time in self-development, and focused on my education.

On the fourth day, I started my education journey in the American University in Cairo, and I chose to specialize in Quality. For me quality was not only about work, but it was about life, relationships, communication, and eventually in human resources, work-life balance and employee wellness.

I have learnt to always set to myself KPIs, my main KPIs were my self-development and empowerment, after I fulfilled that I moved to another KPI, which was training and developing 5000 employees working in the Oil and Gas sector across Egypt, and now I am fulfilling my third KPI, which is empowering others to ethically fight for their rights, to become more empathetic as well as intellectual, and mainly helping people to become more humane.

Discussed in 1st Arab Women Summit in North America: https://arabwomensummit.com/team/dr-hanan-abdelmoniem/

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Books

Book Review: “When Women Unite”, by Abir Yassin

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When Women Unite, a one act play, written by Mahmoud Mansi. I would totally say about this play that it is not written to everyone, in a way it is shocking, controversial, questionable, and debatable. And on the other hand I would recommend it to each and every one. It is an eye-opener, can’t put it down kind of books.  One can’t believe it is written by a man. The writer can totally get into women’s mind and their inner struggles regardless of their background and their beliefs.

What makes the play standout is mainly the dialogue.  While reading, you find your own words and thoughts been told through the characters, to the extent that some lines you act it out while reading.

Concerning the ideas discussed, in a way one can consider it shocking, and on the other way it is so real and deliberated on so many levels through many channels out there. The play has no red lines, it goes through politics and religion and all those areas that one can consider tabooed.

The title, “When Women Unite”, gives the right idea about the main theme of the play which is “women rights” shown through three different ladies, with various life style, minds and orientations. The setting of the play, a demonstration, gives the thoughts a lot of space to be exposed as a bomb. Gives the characters the opportunity to speak out their inner and hidden ideas, which all women on planet Earth has in their black box. The playwright opened that black box with no mercy.

The characters’ development is a little bit fast due to the timeline of the play where by the end they reach their liberty. They reached this freedom when they opened up to each other and expose their wounds to the air.

As a reader, I may tell that it is a great time consuming play to be read. I didn’t waste a minute reading it, a very successful experiment by the writer.

Link to Book on Amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Women-Unite-Challenges-Movement-ebook/dp/B07TRNV45D/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1562758857&refinements=p_27%3AMahmoud+Mansi&s=digital-text&sr=1-2&text=Mahmoud+Mansi

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Articles

Book Review: When Women Unite, Review By Nesma Yassien

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About the Book

When Women Unite: A Play about Challenges facing the Modern Movement of Feminism and Gender Dialogue, written by Mahmoud Mansi.

The play is written about the movement of feminism, where women from different backgrounds were present in the same women’s rights protest. When they started talking about politics, relationships, religion, and feminism, they discovered that they were not on the same page. That’s mainly how the play starts and events progress.

Book Reviewer's Note

It took me roughly two hours to read the whole play. I will not lie when I say that I was a bit concerned to read a book about women written from a male (with an Eastern background) point of view. But I was surprised. I recommend including the play in universities with programs relevant to Women Studies Subject.

Book Review

I liked the choice of characters especially the Harem Slave and the Conservative housewife. Their character representation is very interesting and fresh. These characters are given a platform to voice their opinions which I believe are very anti-stereotypes. Those two specific characters  are either not well-represented in literature or are represented as passive, pathetic, and voiceless women. However, you managed to give them a new light by highlighting their multiple humane, feminine, and rebellious sides. For instance, people would never think that a conservative housewife and a Harem Slave would have such big ambitions that would eventually change society (which I believe is represented by the Enshrouded Man).

The first chapter does mirror our society’s mindset through the healthy argument/debate between the characters. The characters represent a variety of cultures, beliefs and background and that has made the play universal. 

The play is also timeless and this is evident in chapter two. Discrimination against women has existed ages ago. According to the author’s choice of the characters of Cleopatra and Harem Slave, the issue goes beyond the boundaries of time and space.

Moreover, the characterization of Cleopatra  is very clever. Cleopatra has been always portrayed in films and books in a negative light, but the author provided a whole new light to her personality by presenting her as Mother nature- a woman who has the venom and the cure. 

Cleopatra discusses the concept of Evilness in a new light. Her words reminded me of Fyodor Dostoyvesky’s idea of pain in Notes From The Underground; how important pain is to the body. According to the Protagonist, without the feeling of pain, no one would realize that the body is dying. The same applies to Evilness in the play. Evil is important to set things right too. Also pain is essential to save the whole body, and so is Evil; it demands us to cure society as a whole without discrimination. The cure is knowledge, confession and acceptance. 

The third chapter is fascinating. The characters reveal their past and the readers discover that they are more or less the same. All characters share things in common and they all experience a moment of epiphany after they confess and accept each others’ past.

We are all humans who sin and make wrong choices, but in order to become strong and to unite one should confront himself and accept and embrace her/his sins and wrong choices in life (same as when they confess and embrace each other). This is therapeutic. This is when they are truly free and equal. They all (including the Enshrouded Man) choose to make the right choice by following their passion regardless of how society would see them. This is When Women Unite.

Link to Book on Amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Women-Unite-Challenges-Movement-ebook/dp/B07TRNV45D/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1562758857&refinements=p_27%3AMahmoud+Mansi&s=digital-text&sr=1-2&text=Mahmoud+Mansi

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