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Ebtesam Al-Alawi is a PhD student on the joint programme created by Brunel Business School in the UK and Ahlia University in Bahrain, specialising in employee turnover and effectiveness. She holds a masters degree in occupational health from Brunel University and has worked for Bahrain’s defence force, in the nursing department and the hospital quality assurance department.

Ms Al-Alawi spent her childhood in Muharraq then moved to Busaiteen until she married at the age of 18. She has helped launch a beauty school, salon and spa and enjoys reading, taking long drives and meditating by the sea.

1. Who inspires you?

Kimora Lee Simmons, reality TV show star and founder of a fashion line called Baby Phat. She is a great business lady with a loud personality. Her management skills are creative and productive and I admire her way of allowing her children to participate in her business activities. She inspires me to work harder, yet smarter, to provide the best for my family and my community.

2. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

My MSc in Occupational Health and Safety Management. At the time (1997), I was considered the first with this degree in the kingdom of Bahrain. However — because of its originality — I didn’t receive the credit or recognition it deserved. No one was ready to take any risks in establishing new departments as the idea to most organisations was new, yet it was booming in the UK.

Another disappointment was being faced with “This is a man’s job” by several of the ministries I approached. If I could do it all again, I would not let these rejections get in my way and would create an establishment of my own to teach health and safety management.

3. What do you enjoy most about studying for a PhD?

The research and reading because it helps me gain plenty of knowledge and insight. Another thing I enjoy is being able to apply my studies to the real world, especially in the healthcare services. The PhD process also keeps me occupied and strengthens my independence.

4. What is the last book you read?

Designing Social Research (2nd edition) by Norman Blaikie. This book is helpful for my current stage as a PhD student as it covers conceptual research projects perfectly and gives the correct guidance to building up your own research theory.

5. What is your favourite business book?

Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson. I still read it whenever I get the chance. My life is hectic and the book is a powerful tool to adopt change and acquire a positive advantage from it.

6. How do you deal with pressure?

Sometimes the only way is through stopping the entire routine I am living and switching to something extremely different, like shopping.

7. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

“If anyone can do it, you can do it” — this is advice given by my mother who I have always considered my best teacher in life. Through hard times and obstacles, I have remembered these words and passed them on to my children.

8. What do you hope women in business will achieve?

I hope they can achieve all of the things men have achieved and will achieve because women today are not any different from men. They are increasingly well educated and are building up their levels of self confidence.

9. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

The phenomenon of male-dominated environments is in decline in Bahrain with women starting to gain places in parliament and ministries. What we need though is more understanding of women in business and their work as entrepreneurs: their experiences and perspectives, the barriers they can face, the conflicts between work and family roles and how women can be better supported so that society can gain more from their contribution.

10. What are your future plans?

Complete my PhD in 2015 and make use of the valuable research data I have acquired to the benefit of organisations, in addition to creating a training and development institution. Help my husband achieve his dream of owning a children’s hospital in Bahrain.

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