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A SPOTLIGHT ON FEMALE LEADERS AT QM, PT.2

18 May 2020

Happy International Museums Day!

Every year since 1977, the International Council of Museums has organized “International Museums Day” to celebrate the museum industry across the globe through the lens of specific themes. This year’s theme is “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”. The theme aims to celebrate the diversity of perspectives that make up the communities and personnel of museums, while highlighting the potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for people of all origins and backgrounds.  

Join us in the second part of our series celebrating the people working at Qatar Museums (QM). From the Chairperson, Her Excellency Shaikha Al Mayassa, to directors and staff in various departments across the museums, QM is run by an amazing array of strong, dedicated and talented women who have helped transform Qatar’s cultural sector.

Get to know some of the remarkable female leaders who are making an impact at QM: 

(Note: The answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

 

MONA HAMED | DEPUTY CEO OF OPERATIONS, DIRECTOR OF LEGAL AFFAIRS

 

Mona Hamed Deputy CEO of Operations and Director of Legal Affairs

1.     What do you do at QM?

As Deputy CEO, I oversee 12 departments and these range from IT to facility management, procurement, archeology, conservation and site management. My day-to-day role involves managing a team of five in the legal department and a team of over 20 members in the finance department. There is a lot of back and forth between departments and legal because we service our clients, the museums, various entities, and our work involves making sure that we are protecting our reputation, our money and our museums. Beyond just working as a lawyer, a lot of my day is about exchanging feedback with my team. I also started a training program three years ago in QM, and we were the only department in the country with a trainee from abroad whom I train as part of the training qualification in the UK. 

 

2.     What challenges have you navigated in order to reach the position you are in today?

Being a lawyer, we deal with challenging cases every day. Another challenge is the perception of what a good job is for a woman and the choices that a woman makes. I chose to resign from my job when I had both of my children to be a full-time mother for a while, and that choice resulted in a lot of challenges in regards to backlash. Surprisingly, I faced backlash from other women, who believed that I was making a mistake by leaving my successful career to stay at home and “change nappies”. I chose my priorities and ultimately as a mother, you have responsibilities that you cannot delegate. My choices were based on my priorities, and despite the challenges I faced during the process of letting go of my career, and the process of re-entering my career, those choices defined my principles, allowing me to be the person I am today. 

 

I’ve written more about this in my blog as well. 

 

3.     What inspires you?

Justice. I love nothing more than fighting for legal cases based on principles, fairness and what is right. Leading with value and principle inspires me every day. Also, my children inspire me every day to be a better person because children’s kindness and generosity have no boundaries. 

 

4.     How do you balance your work and home responsibilities?

It’s difficult. It’s a challenge every day. As a working mum, it’s a choice; either you’re doing one or the other. So, being transparent at work is very important — you have to put your priorities on the table. When I’m busy, I have a wonderful team that supports me and takes the workload off my shoulders. They allow me to balance everything. Another factor is that leadership at QM promotes a healthy and understanding culture around women with families. But it works both ways — you have to be fair to the people that you’re working with. So when I couldn’t balance work, I made the decision to resign and I prioritized. We need to make that choice. You cannot have it all.  My children also help me maintain a balance. They are very accepting and independent, and I have a very supportive family as well. It's a challenge to balance things everyday, but it works if you build the right network around you. 

 

5.     What advice would you give to your younger self?

Not to always be so stubbornly passionate, because you have to reign in the passion sometimes. Also, not to take other people’s opinions seriously. Before, I would take other people’s opinions to heart, but now I share my opinion, and it is what it is. If they want to disagree they do, but I don't really care. I would tell my younger self to be more confident in herself and her decisions. 

 

6.     How are you making an impact at QM?

I’m a passionate advocate of professional development. Instead of looking at systems and the way hierarchies work in organizations, I’ve always believed everyone has a chance of having an impact. When you’re confident with what you love to do, and somebody trains you and mentors you well, that allows for the best kind of self-growth. So I train my staff and invest in their education. Even if they leave, they carry that with them, which is why I enjoy mentoring young staff a lot. I also make it a habit to give feedback to those around me. I realized that the best way to have an impact is to be an inspiring role model and actually do what you say, and I have always upheld those values and principles in front of my team. By building positive relationships and mentoring my team, I was able to create a passionate, dedicated, and hard working team who became like family. I learnt that if you look after people, they look after you. 

 

SUSAN PARKER LEAVY | HEAD OF MIA LIBRARY

 

Susan Parker Leavy, Head of MIA library

1.     What do you do at QM?

My job involves managing the library team, creating library programs (book club, story time, programs for schools and teacher training), managing the library collection (acquisitions of new books, cataloging, protecting the rare books/manuscripts and collection development), and assisting the staff and visitors with research requests. I work to support MIA staff, QM staff, schools and visitors to the library, which is really rewarding.

 

2.     What challenges have you navigated in order to reach the position you are in today?

I have a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and a Masters in Library Science, and to be a good librarian, you need to have sufficient knowledge of a specialist subject, operational knowledge of how libraries work, knowledge of book conservation, management skills, and so many other skills as library work is so varied. One day you may be helping an academic with a difficult research request and on another day doing story time for toddlers. There is never a dull moment in the library, and it has always challenged me to learn new things.

 

3.     What inspires you?

I’m inspired daily by kindness, creativity, unique thinking, our collections, our staff, our visitors, my team and the beauty of our museums and Qatar. If I had to pick one thing that I really love, it would be working with the rare books, especially the Gastronomy Collection. The chef at IDAM even recreated some of the delicious recipes which is truly inspiring.

 

4.     How do you balance your work and home responsibilities?

I love my work so I often find that I stay late and continue to think about work at home. I also read and prepare the book club at home so it is often hard to draw a line between work and home. The best way I balance this is by ensuring that I always take a couple of vacations each year, where I can totally switch off from work and spend time with my family and friends.

 

5.     What advice would you give to your younger self

After graduation, I worked for several years as a specialist librarian in the area of banking and finance. Working in banking was very challenging, but my real passion is museums and art. Therefore I would say to my younger self, “stick to your dreams and don’t get side tracked in banking — it really is not you”.

 

6.     How are you making an impact at QM?

I currently act as a support to the other QM library heads to assist them in their roles. We have a monthly meeting to ensure that the services and collections are of the same high standard across all the QM Libraries (MIA, NMoQ, Mathaf and the soon to open 3-2-1 Qatar Olympics and Sports Museum Library). As a librarian I am here to serve and help everyone to access the knowledge under my control. 

 

LAURA BARLOW | SENIOR CURATOR

 

Laura Barlow, Senior Curator
Credits: photograph by Aparna Jayakumar

1.     What do you do at QM?

I used to be a curator at Mathaf, and I am now leading the development of a major multisite temporary exhibition that will take place in 2022. As a curator of contemporary modern art, my focus is on creating exhibitions, which involves developing the conceptual idea from the very beginning and leading it through to the delivery of the physical exhibition. My role involves research, site visits, international travel and developing conceptual ideas for exhibitions and publications. 

 

2.     What challenges have you navigated in order to reach the position you are in today?

I’m from the UK, and I grew up in a very rural town in a place with no museums or art galleries. So the challenges I faced involved trying to find my interests and figuring out to make a career out of them to support myself with. I followed my own path, which involved moving countries a few times, following further education, doing certain internships, and while these were thrilling experiences, all of these came with their own set of challenges. But I learnt that challenges are what make experiences worthwhile and in the long run, they can have the most positive impact on you.

 

3.     What inspires you?

Artists. Artworks. I find architecture inspiring because it opens up an exploration of how society is organized but also how society is connected and cared for. On a personal level, there are things like the ocean and music that are also really inspiring, grounding elements. Being close to the ocean, seeing its movement and its changes and also the way music has this rhythmic, moving flow represents this ebb and flow of how we live. Within that is the notion of change and determination which I find really inspiring. It is ultimately the most inspiring for my work and how I connect to the people who drive the work that I do, whether they are artists or colleagues. 

 

4.     How do you balance your work and home responsibilities?

Boundaries and routine are really important. I make it clear to myself when I’m at work and when I’m not working and what my time frame is for those things. Having them in place is really crucial. Following them is really important too. I think that having them in place but also breaking them once in a while is just as necessary, so you can remind yourself why they are needed. 

 

5.     What advice would you give to your younger self?

Sleep well and stay curious. 

 

6.     How are you making an impact at QM?

At the moment, what I hope is making an impact is the work we’re doing in regards to the Curatorial Network. It is a network connecting all the curators at QM and was initiated by Her Excellency to create a forum between curators and allow more collaboration and conversation. I am the Vice Chair of the network, and I hope this project positively impacts the way curators operate internally.

 

MAHA AL SULAITI | DIRECTOR OF M7

1.     What do you do at QM?

I’m trying to establish the foundation for M7 — a creative hub which caters to all types of designers. I am working on building the team, so I work alongside HR to conduct interviews. I am overseeing the digital and marketing plans and working on trying to procure all the partners we’ve been speaking to. Essentially, I am working on getting M7 ready for its September launch. 

 

2.     What challenges have you navigated in order to reach the position you are in today?

As a woman, you really have to prove yourself sometimes. In certain places, it’s male dominant, so it’s a little bit harder to stand out and there are challenges linked to that. But at the same time, I find that because of the leadership in the country from the royal family, it makes it easier for other women to follow their example. Within QM, there is a sense of understanding of what it’s like to be a woman navigating in this world, which eased a lot of challenges for me. For example, certain places don’t understand the notion of balancing family and kids with work and could look at being a mom as a shortcoming, but QM appreciates work-life balance, making it easier for its female staff through its supportive environment. 

 

3.     What inspires you?

Other women inspire me. Especially moms who are taking care of their families while still doing their own thing. Creativity also inspires me, because it offers new and unique perspectives that I may not have thought about before. Sometimes your own thoughts and ideas tend to feel boring to yourself and so just talking to people, communicating and seeing their perspective and opinions — that interaction creates a spark which inspires me. 

 

4.     How do you balance your work and home responsibilities?

You have to be really organized and split your time and understand that there’s a time for work, there’s a time for family, and there’s a time for you. It took me some time to find that balance, but pre-planning and organising ahead of time was really important, along with using the help around me. Also, I learnt that you can’t just give give give, you have to take time out for yourself too by working out or doing your own thing. I recognized that you can hold a director level position and still give to your family and to yourself. Once you find that balance and give equal weight to each responsibility, it becomes easier and less overwhelming, but it takes discipline, and you have to build that habit. 

 

5.     What advice would you give to your younger self?

You don’t have to be perfect, because perfection is not real. Also that small changes add up. Small accomplishments add up at some point, and I shouldn’t focus too much on overwhelming massive goals that are unreachable. 

 

6.     How are you making an impact at QM?

I bring my own perspective. I studied innovation management because I feel that rigid structures don’t always work for creativity and innovation. I’m very open to thinking outside the box. I'm very open to experimenting and trying new things and failing. I think it’s refreshing to have that kind of mindset, especially in a governmental organization, which has its procedures and policies balanced with its creative institutions.  

 

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