‘The op­por­tu­ni­ties are al­ways there, but we need the right mind set for it’

- Talar Faiq

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Ruwayada Mustafa Rabar

Talar Faiq is the first fe­male di­rec­tor of Er­bil In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the first fe­male air­port di­rec­tor in Iraq and the only fe­male air­port boss across the whole of the Mid­dle East.

Un­til 2005, there was no civil­ian air­port or avi­a­tion in the Kur­dis­tan re­gion, and Talar’s success has won her mul­ti­ple awards. In 2011 she re­ceived an award as Best Woman in Avi­a­tion, and has since been very suc­cess­ful. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Kur­dish Globe, she spoke about her as­pi­ra­tions for the fu­ture of Kur­dis­tan in avi­a­tion, and thoughts on how women can be suc­cess­ful in the work­ing sec­tor.

Er­bil In­ter­na­tional Air­port works with more than 21 car­ri­ers serv­ing 23 cities in 15 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. In 2011, saw 620,000 pas­sen­gers use the air­port, a 43% in­crease on 2010, that growth con­tin­ued in 2012, with 947,000 pas­sen­gers, a jump of 53% on the 2011 to­tal, mak­ing Er­bil In­ter­na­tional one of the fastest grow­ing air­ports in the Mid­dle East, if not the world, in per­cent­age terms at least.

Talar Faiq says she hopes their air­port will be able to com­pete with lead­ing air­ports in­ter­na­tion­ally by of­fer­ing ex­cel­lent ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties. Although the air­port is small com­pared to other air­ports in the Mid­dle East, it none­the­less pro­vides ex­cel­lent ser­vice to pas­sen­gers.

Some of us look in each sec­tor in a gen­der-based way, we look at whether it is male dom­i­nated or if the en­vi­ron­ment is friendly to women. Talar feels this is not the right way to ap­proach work, she said “I don’t see my work through my gen­der. I don’t come to work think­ing this is a male dom­i­nated field. I come to work, and I fo­cus on my job.”

She went on to ex­plain how women in gen­eral should not feel threat­ened in work if there are more men, but should liber- ate their minds from a de­featist men­tal­ity and give their job all their en­ergy be­cause you can’t change pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­eties by mak­ing spe­cial rules for women so that they “fit in”. In­stead the gen­eral rules must be ac­cepted and through that peo­ple can work to­wards cre­at­ing a gen­der neu­tral en­vi­ron­ment.

There are more av­enues open­ing for women in Kur­dis­tan, but un­for­tu­nately women are still not mak­ing it to top CEO po­si­tions eas­ily. One of the rea­sons, ex­plains Talar, is the women have, and, this ap­plies to men too, they sim­ply have dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties and she added, the chal­lenge of women get­ting to the top is a world­wide is­sue, and not pe­cu­liar to Kur­dis­tan. Talar is an ex­am­ple of a hard-work­ing Kur­dish woman, with more than 13 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the United Na­tions, and a Bach­e­lors de­gree at Al Mun­siriyah Univer­sity. She be­lieves women should take ad­van­tage of the many op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them. In the 90s she said, “Women had very few op­por­tu­ni­ties, some par­ents did not en­cour­age their daugh­ters in ca­reers be­yond teach­ing and other tra­di­tional ar­eas for ex­am­ple. There was a greater sense of de­pen­dency on them, but now in a glob­al­ized and pro­gres­sive Kur­dis­tan, we are see­ing this change’ be­cause mid­dle class fam­i­lies can no longer sur­vive with one bread­win­ner. More im­por­tantly, women are more vo­cal about their rights and no longer ac­cept be­ing ‘house­wives’ or stay at home women, es­pe­cially since the ma­jor­ity of Kur­dish women are highly ed­u­cated.»

Ed­u­ca­tion is key to be­ing suc­cess­ful and hav­ing av­enues open, but Talar Faiq cau­tions against the idea that through ed­u­ca­tion alone peo­ple will ac­cess high paying, and man­age­rial po­si­tions. She said, “If women or men want to be suc­cess­ful, they need edu- cation, ex­pe­ri­ence and a com­mit­ment to self-devel­op­ment. We need young peo­ple to gain ex­pe­ri­ence while they study, and not have four or so years of aca­demic dis­ci­plinary study­ing with­out any ex­pe­ri­ence. They will find it harder to find jobs if they rely on their qual­i­fi­ca­tion alone.”

Er­bil In­ter­na­tional Air­port has been very care­ful in re­spect­ing Bagh­dad’s rules be­cause the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion still does not have its own airspace, and con­se­quently un­able to make key de­ci­sions. Talar Faiq be­lieves that the air­port should op­er­ate to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, and that in­cludes fol­low­ing the rules and reg­u­la­tions of the na­tional reg­u­la­tor for avi­a­tion. The ICAA is rec­og­nized as the rule maker for avi­a­tion in Iraq and we must re­spect that and work with it oth­er­wise there would be chaos and safety risks which we cer­tainly do not want. That said it is some­thimes a chal­lenge though to com­bine in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice, with avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tions dat­ing back to 1974, and with KRG reg­u­la­tions and pro­ce­dures. We fol­low three dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tory regimes, Iraq’s, the KRG’s and in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice.” Talar ex­plained.

EIA has a com­i­cal side to all its glam­our and mis­for­tunes too. Talar Faiq laughed and said “It is ex­cit­ing to be able to of­fer some peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to be on a plane for the first time in their life, but with that comes prob­lems at times. For in­stance, one pas­sen­ger, clearly trav­el­ling by air for the first time, was wait­ing to pick up their lug­gage and hav­ing found only one case , they jumped on the carousel whilst it was mov­ing to try and find the sec­ond case. So they found them­selves go­ing around and around, much to the amuse­ment of fel­low pas­sen­gers.” She ex­plained how hi­lar­i­ous the scene was, and that peo­ple tend to do funny things at the air­port such as the fam­ily who bought their own ket­tle to make their own tea whilst wait­ing for a flight.

Run­ning an air­port is a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity, and Talar said that it of­ten takes time away from her fam­ily. At times she finds her­self coming to the air­port at 3 AM in the morn­ing to check on op­er­a­tions, or some­times she leaves the of­fice late be­cause of un­ex­pected events and com­pli­ca­tions to be found at any in­ter­na­tional air­port. How­ever, de­spite all the trou­bles and late hours, she says her job is ful­fill­ing and she does it with great pride know­ing that it ser­vices both the Kur­dish peo­ple and Kur­dis­tan.

There are many em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties at EIA. Talar says she wel­comes prospec­tive em­ploy­ees and en­cour­ages them to ap­ply since there are many sec­tors within EIA with va­can­cies. It is an EIA pri­or­ity to build up a team of skilled and tal­ented peo­ple com­mit­ted to be­ing pro­fes­sional and able to serve the KRG in a va­ri­ety of roles. She said EIA looks at skill, tal­ent and then ed­u­ca­tional back­ground em­pha­siz­ing that skill is very im­por­tant. The success of EIA is due to tal­ented young men and women work­ing as a team to run the air­port, like a close knit­ted fam­ily. She ex­plained that they are al­ways look­ing out for prospec­tive grad­u­ates with suf­fi­cient ex­pe­ri­ence, “We of­ten send out our team that deals with em­ploy­ment to look for fresh grad­u­ates that have ex­pe­ri­ence, or give po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees train­ing in their re­spec­tive field. We have built links with the univer­si­ties, to make sure we re­cruit those most tal­ented to join us and that the op­por­tu­ni­ties are fre­quent, but we need the right mind­set for it, and the right skills, this is an in­ter­na­tional air­port and hav­ing rea­son­able English is a must to deal with dif­fer­ent as­pects of air­port work, in­clud­ing con­tact with pas­sen­gers. “

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