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Pioneering first for Emirati women

Lubna Qassem is the first female Graduate Engineer in the Potline section of EGA’s Operations and the first woman to work shifts at EGA Jebel Ali

Lubna Qassem is a prime example of a pioneering Emirati woman whose accomplishments deserve recognition on Emirati Women’s Day.

Her first year at Emirates Global Aluminium has seen several firsts – she is not only the first female Graduate Engineer in her section of Operations at EGA, first female UAE national to join the potline shift operation crew.

Lubna, who graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Sharjah, has successfully applied her theoretical knowledge in a demanding environment – including sometimes working 12-hour night shifts from 7pm – 7am.

“I am proud to be the first woman here,” says Lubna. “I aspire to be a role model for women. I hope in future more women will join this industry because we are capable of doing anything. Before, women my age may not have known that they can work in industrial operations roles but now they can see me. And by seeing me, Inshallah, I can inspire them.”

The theme for this year's Emirati Women's Day, which will be celebrated on August 28, is ‘We Collaborate for Tomorrow’. It was chosen to align with UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan's announcement that 2023 will be the Year of Sustainability, highlighting the UAE's commitment to finding innovative solutions to sustainability challenges.

EGA, which is committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, aims to embed sustainability in everything the company does. The Jebel Ali site where Lubna works, for example, was certified in 2021 to the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative’s Performance Standard, the aluminium industry’s globally recognised standard for environmental, social and governance practices.  

Lubna says she is “very proud” to work for an organisation committed to sustainability. She also feels the same way about EGA’s prominent support of UAE Government initiatives to further reduce the gender gap across all sectors.

“EGA is encouraging women in a traditionally male-dominated industry, which is a great opportunity for women like me,” says Lubna. “Gender diversity is essential in the UAE, with women participating fully in all aspects of civil society and employment opportunities. Women in the UAE are fully empowered members of society, and fully capable of proving themselves in all fields.”

Lubna’s accomplishments are also a prime example of EGA’s bold aspiration of ‘becoming a talent-driven organisation. She has relished gaining industry knowledge by chatting to the older hands working on her shifts, who come from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds, and thoroughly enjoys ‘getting her hands dirty’ doing practical work.

“Working in a Potline is challenging because of the harsh environment, especially working in shifts and in a multicultural environment at night,” Lubna admits. “That was a little bit hard at the beginning. But I learned quickly, and I love it. Doing the work that I am doing is something to be proud of. I know that if I am enjoying what I am doing and I put all my effort in, then I will succeed.

“When I come to the end of my GT program, when I will be supervising and leading my team, I need to understand what they are doing, the time they are spending on it, and when they will be tired from doing their jobs. My team is very supportive.”

While Lubna is a role model for future generations of women at EGA, her own role model is another inspirational woman working at EGA – Najeeba Aljabri, previously the company’s Technical Vice President Midstream and now Vice President EHS, and a pioneering woman in the regional aluminium industry for several decades.

“Since I joined EGA, everybody is talking about her and how she has reached a senior position by being brave and knowing how to deal with everything in a positive way,” says Lubna. “Some people have been saying to me I will be the next Najeeba… Inshallah.

“I see myself in future as an integral part of EGA and I am constantly striving for personal and professional growth. My ambition is to forge a mutually beneficial relationship with the company where I contribute and learn and apply my knowledge to help EGA achieve its goals.”

During her academic years, Lubna actively sought opportunities beyond the classroom – for example, working at the Dubai Health Authority during summer breaks. Additionally, she also volunteered to organise science exploration trips coordinated by the Ministry of Education to attend lectures and workshops. One memorable trip saw her serve as a supervisor during a visit to Singapore, supporting and mentoring over 20 students.

“It was an amazing experience,” she recalls. “It was the first time I travelled abroad without my family. As well as the work I also went to Universal Studios in Singapore, which was great fun.”

Outside of EGA working hours, Lubna has a varied list of hobbies that include going to the gym, lots of cooking, playing chess, and helping her sisters with their maths and physics homework. Indeed, before becoming a mechanical engineer, she pondered becoming a maths teacher.

“One of my sisters says to me ‘how do you know all these things?!’,” laughs Lubna, with a large smile. “Sometimes I even help her friends and send videos to them.” Lubna adds: “I studied mechanical engineering at university because from young age I liked to play with things, open them and take the electrical parts out. I like that side of work, as well as work at EGA that involves calculations.”

To commemorate Emirati Women’s Day – something she proudly describes as a “special occasion” – Lubna issued her own special message to fellow women, Emirati or otherwise.

“I would like to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere and express my commitment to fostering gender equality and empowerment in the workplace,” says Lubna. “Let us continue to break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and inspire others to follow their dreams. As a female ambassador for EGA, I am proud to represent the company's commitment to diversity and empowerment.”