Career coach shares what works for women in Qatar – and what doesn’t
Career coach Carolin Zeitler has seen attitudes toward women in the workplace change dramatically in Qatar, for the better.
From being a rarity, particularly outside of traditional fields like teaching, women now hold key leadership positions in several sectors, said Zeitler, the founder of the How Women Work community.
“Now, it’s amazing. They are everywhere. A lot of local women are in high-positions – they are directors and managers and doing a fabulous job. They’re showing the boys how it is done. And they’re being taken seriously.”
That change has been inspiring – especially because these women are not just in “token positions,” the 40-year-old British-German said.
But there is still a lot of work to be done to get more females in the workforce and not “waste” their talents, she added.
Zeitler spoke to Doha News during a recent interview in which she reflected on her nine years in Qatar as she prepares to leave the country.
The 40-year-old said she is moving to Malta this summer and hopes to write a book about some of her experiences here.
“It’s time for a change. I’ve been feeling a bit burnt out and I’ve had the feeling I need to get a different energy in my life,” she said.
Despite having never been to the island before, even for a holiday, Zeitler said that after a bit of research, she felt it would be the right place.
“I found it has everything I want and the bonus is that it has a bit of Arabic influence too. After all these years (in Qatar) I have learned to appreciate the Arabic culture. It is good to still have a bit of that,” she said.
How Women Work organizes biannual conferences, workshops, networking events and retreats all aimed at helping national and expat women here find the right job.
Zeitler said she decided to reassess her current circumstances given Qatar’s recent belt-tightening and her daughter leaving to begin university in the US.
She is now raising money for her e-book, which has the title, Courage, Confidence & Connection, through crowd-funding site Indiegogo, with the aim of trying to raise €11,000 over the next few weeks to make the project viable.
“After years of living and working in the service of the greater good, I am left with a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience and an empty bank account,” Zeitler said on her fundraising appeal page.
The fundraising aims to allow her to take time out from work to write the book quickly.
With the prologue and structure already done, Zeitler said she hopes to be able to finish it by this September.
“So many people along the way have asked me to write a book of my experiences. I was thinking how to summarize all the experiences I’ve had. These three words (in the book title) were the three aspects I came up with – they are what enabled me and also other the other women here to make the journey to have gone through major life changes,” she told Doha News.
Zeitler has already written one book, How Women Succeed, inspired by some of the women she met in Qatar.
“I have about five different books in my head, trying to get out,” she said.
Reflecting on the increasing participation of women in Qatar’s workforce, Zeitler said one of the biggest challenges remains juggling the job with family commitments.
She said her group has lobbied companies here to create more part-time or flexible roles, but many are reluctant.
“At How Women Work, we have been fighting for part-time and job-share working – this would make it so much easier for women to work,” she said.
“Despite all our efforts, we have had very little response from organizations, although some private sector companies have said they would start offering these roles to attract more women.”
Given the sheer number of women in Qatar who are highly qualified with advanced degrees and experience, this is “a waste of talent,” she said.
“There are so many women women are willing to work, but are having difficulty finding the right work.”
Having coached people for so many years on finding the right job, Zeitler has a lot of advice for those seeking employment.
She said one tip is to look at your skills and see what else you might be able to do using these skills and experience. Also, forget about emailing application forms – in-person networking is crucial.
“We are trying to help people understand how things work in Doha. You can’t sit at home and find a job. Most jobs are found through face-to-face meetings or by word-of-mouth. You have to network,” Zeitler said.
Other advice includes:
- Stand out by doing something different to raise yourself above the noise of other job hunters;
- Accept the different culture of job hunting – some things are acceptable here that may not be in other countries, such as turning up unannounced at an office; and
- Reinvent yourself. Adapt to your circumstances. If you are going to be traveling a lot, consider a portable career that can be done from anywhere.
As she moves on, a new leadership team has been put in place to keep How Women Work going.
“Handing over is kind of hard – so much of my heart and soul went into the venture,” Zeitler said. “But it’s also time. It feels good to let it go, to give it a new opportunity to have some really fresh input. After seven years, you lost the ability to step back.”
“For sure, I’ll miss aspects of it – mostly the community, and especially the events. I’ll miss the buzz of people who are strangers connecting on a deep level and talking about things that really matter to them. We have so much more in common than that which separates us.”