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A real life su­per­hero For a Le­banese woman, bal­ance is the se­cret to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer

Above the desk of Mona Ab­dul Latif, the direc­tor of build­ings at the Min­istry of Public Works, is a drawing by her 10 year old daugh­ter de­pict­ing her as a su­per­hero. “It means a lot to me that my daugh­ters are proud of my achieve­ments and see me as a role model for their fu­ture ca­reer choices,” she says.

Ab­dul Latif, who has seven sib­lings, says her par­ents were very open minded com­pared to oth­ers of their gen­er­a­tion in the 1960s. They in­sisted that all their chil­dren, re­gard­less of their gen­der, get a com­pet­i­tive higher ed­u­ca­tion and so she stud­ied civil en­gi­neer­ing at the Arab Uni­ver­sity. “There were very few women ma­jor­ing in civil en­gi­neer­ing at my time and when we grad­u­ated, we were among the first women en­gi­neers in the coun­try. But to­day, there are many.”

Upon grad­u­a­tion, Ab­dul Latif joined the Min­istry of Public Works as an en­gi­neer and says she proved her­self through her hard work and per­se­ver­ance, fo­cus­ing on bet­ter­ing her skills by tak­ing vol­un­tary com­puter and Au­toCAD de­sign cour­ses. She rose up the ranks over the course of eight years un­til she was made direc­tor of build­ings at the min­istry, one of the few, if not only, “first level” fe­male di­rec­tors in the public sec­tor.

To Ab­dul Latif, be­ing a suc­cess­ful woman is all about bal­ance. “It is not enough to only suc­ceed in your per­sonal life, in so­ci­ety and at home and be a fail­ure when it comes to your ca­reer, nor is it enough to have an out­stand­ing ca­reer but have your per­sonal life in sham­bles. A bal­ance is great.”

Key to achiev­ing this bal­ance, says Ab­dul Latif, is ded­i­ca­tion and de­vo­tion in both the pri­vate and public spheres. “I al­ways com­plete my work with the gov­ern­ment to the best stan­dards, com­ply­ing with all poli­cies and pro­ce­dures at the risk of up­set­ting peo­ple. And I show this same ded­i­ca­tion to my fam­ily life.”

She also at­tributes part of her suc­cess to the part­ner­ship she has at home with her hus­band, which she com­pares to man­ag­ing a com­pany. “My hus­band, a gen­eral in the In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Forces, and I col­lab­o­rate in rais­ing our three daugh­ters. He takes on some tasks such as help­ing them with their school­work and driv­ing them to school, whereas I take on other tasks such as cooking,” says Ab­dul Latif. She adds that, as a cou­ple, they also en­cour­age each other to move for­ward in their ca­reers.

Ab­dul Latif was among the 15 short­listed for the Le­banese Out­stand­ing Women Award 2012, a recog­ni­tion which she says she was hon­ored to re­ceive. “This nom­i­na­tion meant that I was rec­og­nized for my achieve­ments and that my ca­reer has a mean­ing to peo­ple, that I did not just pass by un­no­ticed.”


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