“My journey has always reflected my love of adventure,” says Dr. Abeer Al Omar, who’s preparing for a two-week trip to the United States to take part in the leadership program, Empowering Women in Kuwaiti Politics. Organized by the Washington-based NGO, Partners Global, Abeer will travel to DC and Dearborn, Michigan with 14 Kuwaiti women to meet with senators, lobbyists and government officials. “The program’s objective is to prepare women for greater political leadership in Kuwait and will include training workshops focused on public speaking, social media messaging, coalition building and community engagement,” says Abeer, while having tea with her mother, Latifa Al Barak, in her light-filled living room.
Latifa Al Barak, left, and her daugher Abeer Al Omar are pioneers in their respective fields
“My mother’s positive energy has fueled me throughout my life. It’s important to her that I feel good just before walking out the door each morning because it can impact ones entire day,” says the senior executive, who tries to follow her mother’s example at work, where she’s tasked with creating a positive environment for her colleagues. “In the Gulf we hear about the need to create special programs in companies catered specifically to women, when we should be promoting a culture that values equal opportunity for both men and women,” says Abeer, who received her Doctorate in Business Administration in 2015 from the University of Bradford in the UK. “Within the region, you find a lot of young people will curtail their dreams when it comes to what they truly want to do in life, out fear of upsetting family or being punished for thinking outside the norm. It’s a societal pressure we need to get over in order to move forward,” observes Abeer, who worked in banking after graduating with a BA in Business Administration from Kuwait University in 1986.
In 1996 she applied for a senior HR position at Equate, the first international joint venture in the petrochemical industry, which had opened its headquarters in Kuwait. During her 22 years with the company, she moved up its ranks to assume her current position as Corporate Communications and Government Affairs Senior Executive. Today Abeer spearheads Equate’s corporate responsibility program with its focus on economic, social and environmental sustainability. In 2012, she also participated in a hike up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the Amani Foundation and Children’s Home in Tanzania, while more recently she embarked on an expedition to Antarctica as part of Robert Swan's Leadership on the Edge program. “We were there to bring awareness to the Antarctic Treaty, which protects this unique ecosystem. It will expire in 2041 and we want to ensure that one of the last great wildernesses on earth is never exploited,” she notes, recalling the moment she participated in a polar plunge, jumping into -2°C waters as a group of curious penguins looked on. “Antarctica was a life changing experience, because it made me realize how small we are as human beings compared to this vast world, and yet we each have the capacity to make a large impact.”
From May 2018 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia
Photography: Maha Alasaker