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To commemorate the International Women’s Day, we are featuring women who have made notable contributions in their respective industries. We aim to explore the tenacity of each and discover how they pushed boundaries to rise to the top. 

Latifa Al Khalifa, Co-founder and CEO, Clever Play

What does the 2022 International Women’s Day slogan, #BreaktheBias mean for you in your work life? 

I count myself rather blessed and fortunate to have had the experience of studying and now working in what I would characterize as enlightened places, spaces where I am free from worrying about being discriminated against or having my skills and potentials underestimated on account of my gender. 

Having said that, I am sensitive to the fact that mine is not a common experience. Gender bias is a hindering issue that cuts the basic right of countless women and girls across the world to live with dignity and reach for their dreams.

I commit to breaking the bias by promoting inclusive and diverse work ecosystems. This means considering work-life balance for women in my staff who by conventional arrangements take the bulk of time and energy managing a household and taking care of children.  My work in education also gives me a powerful platform to promote girl-focused initiatives to level the playing field and help bridge gender gap in STEAM opportunities and achievements.

What is the main challenge that you’ve faced as a woman in your industry?

When I started out my entrepreneurial venture, I had the opportunity to tap into networks and support systems that did two things: it allowed me to link with women entrepreneurs like myself and that, interestingly enough, opened my eyes to the reality that entrepreneurship is a field that for a long time has been dominated by men. I need to go the extra mile to connect with women mentors who can appreciate the concerns I have about breaking through, making a mark, and also paving a way for others to lay hold of similar opportunities.

What has been the most empowering moment in your career? 

To answer this question, one might think of a big moment such as receiving an award that recognizes the value of your mission or landing a partnership with a dream organization. While those encounters definitely count and no doubt boost my drive, I am most empowered when I talk to parents whose kids have been to Clever Play. They excitedly share what kind of influence the experience left on their children – a newfound curiosity, interest in science to help the world, being eager to experiment, suddenly talking about new dreams. I think these are profound moments that portray the powerful impact our work can have on the next generations.

Which powerful woman do you admire the most and why? 

I’d like to extend the question by thinking of women in general (power or not) and my personal answer would be my mom. She possesses a unique blend of tenderness and toughness. Her strength and resilience in the face of trying times inspire me to embrace challenges with courage, even to seek out difficult experiences for the way they build character.

Do you have any advice for women wanting to start their own business or work their way up the ladder? 

For any type of work and certainly for a leadership endeavor such as entrepreneurship, it is important that you are clear what you are trying to do – what your vision is and what it takes to realize that vision. I like the saying, “do what you love and love what you do.” You’ve got to want it really bad and believe in it really hard so your energy can sustain setbacks and roadblocks. Joining a network and you connecting with other women entrepreneurs, mentors and motivators are profoundly impactful as you make your way to stand on your own feet. Lastly, I must say curiosity and creativity are currencies that will never depreciate. They would add value to your mission and make your service truly transformative.

What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation? 

I am quite optimistic that things are transitioning towards bringing down gender walls. Societal expectations and stereotypes play a big role in shaping girls’ mindset. Thankfully, we are now more aware about intentionally breaking cultural biases, social norms and preconditioning that label certain things as ”for boys” or “for girls.”

On the learning front, I am happy to report that girls-only STEM initiatives (such as our Girls for Tech program under the sponsorship of Zain) are taking flight. I see a cross-sectoral approach to sustaining the STEM talent pipeline which we vitally need for the Digital Age. This inspires my work not only at Clever Play but the STEM Bahrain Movement which we hope would inspire all sectors to advocate for STEM fields and champion gender parity in STEM education.

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