The Chaldean Women’s Committee hosts first event
By Stephen Jones
A newly formed branch of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, the Chaldean Women’s Committee recently had its first networking event. The Women’s Forum, moderated by Vanessa Denha Garmo, was a panel of four highly-successful Chaldean women discussing some of the most pressing issues for women pursuing careers.
The panelists included plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dunya M. Atisha of the Henry Ford Health System, Serena Denha; co-owner of Donut Bar in Southfield, Nada Jiddou; Vehicle IT executive for Ford Motor Company and general and cosmetic dentist, Nahla Wadie-Salem.
Panelists touched on widespread, problematic stereotypes about women in business, and also about overcoming adversity to reach goals.
One of the hot-button topics discussed was the marginalization of women in executive roles, particularly in fields like engineering.
“The first job that I showed up to, I was one woman in a department of 70 engineers that were all men,” Jiddou said. “You’re looked at as somebody who probably doesn’t know as much, or you need to be looked after. As a woman, you have to prove yourself multiple times before you get the respect that you deserve.”
Jiddou, who is now a seasoned, accomplished executive at Ford Motor Company believes it is important for women to know that there will be hurdles, but it is important to not get discouraged. She believes the ability to overcome is a common trait in women who have accomplished their dreams.
“Women have to develop the capability to not only have your work speak for yourself, but also hold your own and be able to carry the conversation,” Jiddou said. “We have to demand the respect we deserve.”
Women not only have to demand respect in their careers but also in the community. There are also harmful stereotypes about women that exist in the community.
Atisha spoke about the criticism and challenges that she faced from the community when she discovered that she wanted to practice surgery.
“What I proved to love the most and was best at was surgery,” Atisha explained. “Bringing that to the community, that this is what I wanted to do, the first response I got from everybody was: ‘how are you going to do that and get married and have a family? This is not a field for women.’”
Stereotypes about what kinds of work women should or should not do also play a part in women feeling like they have to use specialized skills to communicate in the workplace. Atisha recalls feeling that she had to soften her messages because she was one of a few women in a profession composed primarily of men.
“I went through residency with mostly males in a male-dominated field,” said Atisha. “You do have to learn communication skills that allow you to be respected, while at the same time making sure you’re not looked at as somebody who is ‘too’ strong.”
Panelists touched on other topics such as sisterhood and becoming a c-level exec, as well as some of the advancements they are excited about in their respective fields.
The Chaldean Women’s Committee is chaired by Rena Daiza, MD and was established to promote educational and professional opportunities for all women of the Chaldean community.
The Women’s Forum is hopefully the first of many networking events designed by the Chaldean Women’s Committee to empower women.