To mark International Women’s Day, the Legal, Ethics & Business Integrity Department lawyers reveal what underpins their strong relationship
Ask Maryam Alhaffar, Ethics & Business Integrity Counsel at Emirates Global Aluminium, and Alexandra Robak, the organisation’s General Counsel – Compliance, what they appreciate most about each other professionally, and both give the same answer – trust.
Maryam is an Emirati who began her legal career at EGA in summer 2014, and Alexandra is a British expat of Norwegian origin who joined around the same time. They work closely together in the company’s Legal, Ethics & Business Integrity Department.
The main projects that they have worked on relate to building the Ethics & Business Integrity Programme at EGA and introducing the new Code of Ethics last year. Their work reflects EGA’s value of integrity & fairness, which is also very evident in how they feel about one another.
“I think we both are very good at sharing our thoughts about whatever we feel,” says Maryam. “We build our relationship based on trust. There is transparency, and that’s very important.”
“I agree with Maryam,” adds Alexandra. “Trust has been built up over a period of years. As a team, we challenge each other on things, both from a technical ethics and compliance point of view, and testing each other's opinions.”
The first “building block” of their Ethics & Business Integrity programme, Alexandra says, was the Code of Conduct in 2015. This was then updated and “a new, better version of it” was released at the end of last year called the Code of Ethics.
“That’s the foundation of our programme because it really sets out the standards that the company wants to meet, and expects its employees to meet,” Alexandra says. “It explains why ethical behaviour is important to EGA and why it should be important to everyone who works here to meet those standards.”
Maryam, based in Dubai, initially began at EGA as an administration intern in 2009. She adds that the Code of Ethics stands as “a guide and a commitment for us to follow our values, which include integrity & fairness”.
Doing so, they agree, gives people the confidence to work in an environment where they can make decisions to be proud of and stand by.
“The vast majority of people want to do the right thing,” says Alexandra. “But for all the Codes of Ethics, and Codes of Conduct, the key aspect is turning those good intentions and written statements into actual, real, practical stuff – so people do the right thing, the right way, every day. And that doesn't happen overnight. It's an ongoing process and it's about training and awareness and making sure people feel safe and listened to when they speak up with questions or concerns. We’re on the right path.”
EGA has a bold aspiration of becoming a talent-driven organisation, including by championing diversity in the workplace. . The progressive nature of EGA is evident in the Ethics & Business Integrity team, made up of four women and one man.
Although Alexandra, who qualified as a lawyer in the UK, and has worked in several different countries after first graduating with a politics degree from the University of York in northern England, says the department structure wasn’t deliberate, it makes a refreshing change. Especially, she recalls, in a traditionally male-oriented field like law.
“I think having visible role models is absolutely huge,” she says. “I remember when I was a very young lawyer I frequently walked into meetings or big conferences and every other person would be a grey man in a grey suit with grey hair. It felt lonely.
“At EGA now there are women doing tremendous jobs in visibly important positions throughout the company. And that is extremely inspiring to anyone new coming to the company. If they work hard, they put in the effort, then the opportunities and rewards are there.”
Maryam, who was Group Compliance Advisor at ADNOC in Abu Dhabi from 2019 to 2022 before rejoining EGA in her current role, says the Legal, Ethics & Business Integrity Department works very well as a team.
“It’s not about the gender, respect comes first,” she comments. “And we try to implement respect wherever we are at EGA,” adds the Bachelor of Law & Economics graduate from the University of Al Jazeerah who holds a UAE Attorney’s License.
Speaking on International Women’s Day on 8 March, Maryam says “Family support is important for me in my personal and career development. My father is my biggest supporter in my life”.
Alexandra, a single mum of two girls since her husband’s death in 2016, who enjoys sport and travel in her spare time, concluded: “I think every day is International Women's Day. A growing number of terrific women are doing terrific things at EGA, and that's cause for celebration. There's no reason why a young girl today should not aspire to be a lawyer, an engineer, or the CEO – everything's possible.”