Al-Dossary won an Ernst & Young award in 2008
Cairo – Salwa el-Lobani
Saudi businesswoman Nadia al-Dossary is CEO and partner of Al Sale Eastern Co Ltd, Saudi Arabia's largest steel processing company.
Al-Dossary became the first Saudi woman to stand for membership of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce board and she is an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative.
In 2008 Ernst & Young named the Saudi national Emerging Entrepeneur of the Year.
Arabstoday sat down with the business pioneer in an exclusive interview to discuss life as a woman in business, Saudi Arabian prospects and politics.
Q: You mentioned in a previous interview that you became a businesswoman by chance. How?
Chance is the way people describe unplanned events, so what I meant by chance is how my personal ambitions coincided with events around me, allowing me to use them to serve my own ends. Chance is to want a job and it coming to you, like my first job with a highly-experienced foreign team. The second chance was me wanting to enter business.
Q: You're a partner of Al Sale Eastern Co Ltd. What's your relationship with your workers like? Do you play a part in the process of recycling and so on? And, as a woman, why did you choose this field?
I started at the bottom as a regular manager. Five years later, I found myself faced with running a company after my partner's unfortunate accident. My work today is what I've wanted my whole life, which is to become a manager with a lot of freedom to experiment. Imagination, planning and then enthusiasm in carrying out those plans is how I like to work. I like to think that employees around me are dancing to the same tune.
It's only natural that I should responsible for the smallest details of the process, but it's more important for me to monitor things that have the biggest impact on work and my workers.
Life doesn't discriminate between men and women, it just flows towards experience, talent and good instincts, so I don't find my choice of business at all odd.
Q: As a Saudi woman, have you faced any difficulties in realising your ambitions?
Having had a lot of experience in life and read a lot of history, philosophy and biographies, I now strongly believe that life is a fast-paced and unpredictable game of Monopoly. There is no lasting stability. And because it's a game, no-one can set the rules. So it's better to be like fish in a river, swim with the current and against the bedrocks, train our muscles to manoeuvre and our bodies to glide along. If you can do that, then why not laugh and have fun?
Q: You're responsible for the first environmental industrial-level enterprise started by a Saudi woman. How did you get the idea?
The environmental project came from within our company. I only came in to underscore how important it is to recycle scrap iron and refuse. It's an environmental project that serves the planet and its resources. All I've done is organise work to focus on the smallest details. I've also imported very tight environmental systems from Europe.
Q: How influential are you in national dialogue?
I took part in national dialogue three times and was honoured to meet the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia] in person. I truly cherish that because he's the primary real supporter of Saudi women's progress. My objective was, and still is, the same as when I participated in the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce board election: encourage other women to take part. I'm happy today to see all those young women who work in all sorts of fields.
Q: You are an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Tell us about it.
Membership in the Clinton Initiative was a huge step in my career because I never actually sought after it. It was former US President Bill Clinton's group who nominated me, and I'm very proud of that. The initiative, which includes such big names as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, brings together these tremendous minds to run environmental and humanitarian projects.
Q: Where do you stand on the Arab Spring revolutions?
When it comes to standing up to injustice, I'm a supporter of Gandhi. I don't believe in violence, not even resistance without a clear goal. Revolutions usually break out when people have reached a dead end, but, unfortunately, they have been exploited by other camps. It's become like someone who's lit a fuel-soaked fuse and doesn't know how to extinguish it.