International Women’s Day 2024: Is What Men & Women Want Similar?

It’s 2024: we have made strides in technology and arts. But are men and women aligned in what actions can make the world a better place for women in the next decade? 

The road to equality can be and should be led by women, but men also need to march in the parade. And by march, we mean, put in efforts to understand what takes the most priority for women and consciously alter their own self and educate other men around them. But then again, that raises the question: what do women want the most? And concurrently, do men know what that is?

We spoke to a few of the most well-known design and construction professionals in the city. These pairs work closely together day after day, and might even share the same outlook on life. From standing up for each other to resolving differences, they have likely done it all. So, we decided to put them in a tough spot.

Each of these pairs (and one trio) was asked a question. The catch was to answer them individually, without discussing with each other. The answers we received from all sides spotlight issues that are pivotal in creating a more harmonious future, yet it was interesting to see who priorities what. These opinions rise from personal and shared experiences, and convey what each values most.

This exercise is a reminder. Equality is not men versus women; equality is men and women for women. That being said, conversations made inside the ladies room need to find their way out. This International Women’s Day, in addition to wearing pink, let’s ask each other: In the next decade, what changes can make the world a better place for women?

Allen Architecture Interiors Design

Stuart Allen
Managing Director & Founder

The fact that I am being asked this question in today’s times shows that we are not where we should be. I have always had strong influential women in my life from day one and to this day. I do believe that our society still has an old-world attitude that impacts women in the influential early years that somehow makes some women less confident. The world would be a better place for ALL if we look at individuals based on their morals, contributions, and capabilities rather than being a female or male. It is baffling that we are still in a world where there are issues with unequal pay or bias on positions. Women need to be given support and understanding at an early age to know it is ok to be strong and driven. They need to feel that discrimination is not a deterrent.

What Stuart values about Mansi

Mansi is the multitask guru. She provides me with a different insight within the business and enables our company to make better decisions. Her ability to be able to challenge and provide calmness has been extremely beneficial. We are opposites in many ways but this is a benefit. She demands respect.

(Press the + sign to read)

Mansi Tewari
Associate Director

The focus for the next decade must be education. Education not just for the girl child but for all children. Safety, security, and hygiene at a young age coupled with education will elevate the quality of life for society and especially for girls and women. Empowering a woman with the tools to shape the future allows for a family to flourish and forge a path forward for society. Financial independence is another change I hope to see with more women so that traditional societal expectations are not a burden and hindrance on the fabric of a community.

What Mansi values about Stuart

A true champion for women, Stuart has fostered a studio for designers to break barriers and empower them to reach their full potential. While navigating the role of a mentor, he encourages individuals to flourish and find their own. Compassionate and empathetic, Stuart always strives to balance his position with generosity and sensitivity through his words and action. His commitment to design is admirable.

(Press the + sign to read)

Other Participants (Click to view answers)

Turner & TownsendSummertown InteriorsWarû X DesignsmithJLL MENAXBD CollectiveBrand Creative

Turner & Townsend

John Grant
Associate Director

Over the years, and working with a number of bluechip clients, I’ve noticed a positive shift towards gender equality in the Real Estate field. Even in my own company, I see more women being hired and promoted to leadership roles and I’m proud to work for a firm that values gender equality and actively works towards improvement.

The construction industry could drive this further through increasing educational opportunities, such as internships and encouraging young females to consider professions in this sector. This early exposure could lead to increased interest and the pursuit of further education geared towards career enablement.

What John values about Georgina

What impresses me most about Georgina is her passion for her job and her drive to always operate and deliver to the highest level, all the while mentoring fellow employees to embrace the same work ethos. Both her passion for commercial management and her commitment to her clients shines through in the way she shows up every day.

(Press the + sign to read)

Georgina Bishop
Associate Director

Improving the world for women involves rethinking design standards. We often see the world tailored to the ‘average male,’ from medicine dosages to car crash dummies. This oversight increases safety risks for women – i.e. women are 47 percent more likely to be seriously injured and 17 percent more likely to die in car crashes due to designs based on the ‘average male’ crash dummy (5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 176 pounds).

Similarly, PPE is often based on male measurements and women can find it a struggle to find properly fitting safety gear like steel-toe boots and high-visibility jackets.

What Georgina values about John

John is a team-oriented leader with a personal investment in each team member’s success. He’s not just about leading from the front; he’s in there with the team, listening to what everyone has to say, whether it’s a direct colleague, his Client, or the Contractor. He’s big on building relationships and learning from each project before jumping into the next one.

John is extremely good at creating opportunities for team members to build relationships and trust with each other which makes all the difference and helps ensure the entire team works well together.

(Press the + sign to read)

Other Participants (Click to view answers)

Allen Architecture Interiors Design • Summertown InteriorsWarû X DesignsmithJLL MENAXBD CollectiveBrand Creative

Summertown Interiors

Nicola Trivett
General Manager

This generation has a responsibility to ensure that the world becomes a more equal place, by not limiting our own self-belief and keeping our mind open I feel this will give the next generation the opportunity to excel and to be successful, I have never felt that as a women I was limited in what I could achieve but that comes from self-belief and the people that you surround yourself with. By educating, mentoring and coaching the next generation this will ensure the world becomes a better and more equal place for women.

What Nicola values about Marcos

Marcos is forward thinking and supportive of the next generation, male or female, given our diverse team at Summertown it demonstrates his unwavering vision of a company without barriers offering fair opportunity for all.

(Press the + sign to read)

Marcos Bish
Managing Director

In business and at work there are in general several areas of improvement to make the world a better place for women: transparency and trust, strategic support, and tackling challenges with balancing life between family and work. There are also external barriers women face such as bias, glass ceilings, discrimination, toxic cultures, and racism.

We can improve on the above by diversifying leadership and promoting women, assure equal wages for equal work and experience, put in place fair parental leave policies, and we need to make sure we give women opportunities to be heard and advocate for them through all levels of business.

What Marcos values about Nicola

Nicola is a high energy leader who generates lots of ideas and is very passionate about her job. Those qualities shine through when she faces challenges and takes on new opportunities and assignments.

(Press the + sign to read)

Other Participants (Click to view answers)

Allen Architecture Interiors DesignTurner & Townsend • Warû X DesignsmithJLL MENAXBD CollectiveBrand Creative

Warû X Designsmith

Rasha Al-Tekreeti
Creative Director & Co-Founder, Warû

I hope that in the next decade, the reaction to women’s assertiveness changes. In my experience as a businesswoman, being assertive has been perceived as an emotional outburst on a few instances. Whereas, if a man is confident and secure in his decisions that elicits respect for him. The dialogue for feedback can also be nettling for women sometimes because we might need to put in more effort to be taken seriously. These scenarios aren’t great for younger women just entering the workforce. They might feel hesitant expressing themselves in meetings.

However, I strongly believe women leaders, especially in the A&D industry, are changing this perception by succeeding and conquering pinnacles of the corporate ladder. As a collective, I feel we are getting more unabashed about taking up more space. And I love that! Women are also natural multi-taskers, and it is a quality that should be championed.

What Rasha values about Vijay

Vijay is a very good listener. He’s someone who is fair and is able to offer opinions without holding biases. I am very fond of him. For the first year of our friendship, he wished me a happy birthday every day of September. It would really make my day. I always wonder why he didn’t follow through with the practice in the years to follow – especially because we have remained friends thereafter!

(Press the + sign to read)

Vijay Nambiar
Studio Director, Designsmith

Historically, women have faced a lot of stereotyping in every aspect of life but quite blatantly at the workplace and this has at times led to a lack of equal opportunity. For example, men have been guilty of casually labelling things/tasks as ‘too technical’ or ‘too physically daunting’ for a woman. These labels are of course completely unsubstantiated and unacceptable. Even seemingly progressive men have taken far too long to wash away the sometimes faint scars of a patriarchal upbringing in a society that even rewards such behaviour by calling it chivalry. There is a desperate need to change this and this might be a need that cannot wait for another decade to pass.

What Vijay values about Rasha

As an ex-colleague and a very dear friend, Rasha has always baffled me with her ability to look at the silver lining with incredible resilience. Those who know her know that she has risen from great adversity to now become an inspiration to so many young designers in the industry. She has led through example and I believe that is something to be admired.

(Press the + sign to read)

Other Participants (Click to view answers)

Allen Architecture Interiors DesignTurner & TownsendSummertown Interiors • JLL MENAXBD CollectiveBrand Creative


Matthew Curran
Associate – Project Manager UAE, Project & Development Services

While the design and construction industry has made significant strides in addressing gender parity over the years, I firmly believe that fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is pivotal for shaping the future of real estate towards a better world. By valuing differences, cultivating a sense of belonging, and encouraging authenticity in the workplace and broader communities, we can create an environment where everyone feels empowered and contribute to a more inclusive and sustainable industry.

What Matthew values about Farah

Farah is tenacious in her pursuit of solutions to the most challenging situations, ensuring that client requirements are not only met but exceeded.

(Press the + sign to read)

Farah Addada
Associate Director – Workplace & Design MEA, Project & Development Services

Promoting equal parenting and work-life balance is crucial in fostering shared responsibilities between men and women in caregiving. By advocating for flexible working arrangements, women can better balance their professional and personal lives. Additionally, implementing paternity leave policies and supportive measures enables men to actively participate in family life, contributing to a fair distribution of caregiving responsibilities. These initiatives provide women with equal opportunities in their careers, ensuring that they are not disproportionately shouldered with caregiving responsibilities and allowing for greater work-life balance for all.

What Farah values about Matthew

Matthew is a reliable problem-solver with extensive knowledge, while also exhibiting a firm yet kind leadership style that sets a positive example.

(Press the + sign to read)

XBD Collective

Marc Torres
Managing Partner

First and foremost, it’s crucial to acknowledge and address persistent gender bias in leadership and decision-making roles. While some countries and forward-thinking companies have made strides in gender equality, global implementation remains a priority. Equal pay for equal work is non-negotiable. Additionally, policies supporting parental leave and affordable childcare are vital for achieving work-life balance and empowering both men and women in the workforce. Being a father of three children – 3, 7, and 8 years of age – I speak from experience. Especially in the UAE, where grandparents are often not accessible, we heavily rely on the support of nannies and schools that accommodate the reality of working parents.

What Marc Torres values about Ellen

Ellen’s curiosity and genuine interest in understanding clients’ needs set her apart. She’s not content with the status quo; instead, she proactively seeks out new possibilities and challenges preconceptions. Ellen’s commitment to lifelong learning and embracing opportunities resonates with young professionals, inspiring them to push boundaries and think innovatively. Her forward- thinking approach ensures she remains adaptable and open-minded, continuously evolving ideas to deliver fresh perspectives. Ellen’s unique blend of curiosity, initiative, and forward-looking mindset makes her an invaluable asset and leader in any creative environment.

(Press the + sign to read)

Ellen Søhoel

As a mother of a teenage daughter and a mentor and guide to a wonderful team of interior designers of different ages and backgrounds, I know that empowering women is one of my most important objectives. By dismantling stereotypes and fostering inclusive environments, we create environments where their potential can develop and flourish. Encouraging female leadership and challenging workplace biases are essential steps towards a more equitable future. Together, we cultivate opportunities where every young woman can emerge confident and empowered ready for whatever path they choose to take in life.

What Ellen values about Marc Roca Bravo

Marc embodies a remarkable blend of dedication and talent, incorporating excellence into every endeavour. Beyond his exceptional architectural and design prowess, Marc’s commitment to his craft extends to fostering a harmonious balance between his professional and personal lives. His steadfast work ethic reflects his reliability and his unwavering support for his family. As a devoted husband and father, Marc champions the empowerment of his wife, who works in the industry as well, sharing the responsibilities of parenthood and nurturing their children with love and care. His leadership not only shapes our projects but also inspires those around him.

(Press the + sign to read)

Marc Roca Bravo
Design Director and Managing Partner

In envisioning a better future for women in the coming decade, it’s imperative that we prioritise genuine equality in the professional arena, be it the A&D industry or elsewhere. This involves not only ensuring fair compensation structures based on merit rather than gender but also striving for a more balanced representation of women in leadership positions. Additionally, we must advocate for more comprehensive family-friendly policies that support both men and women in balancing their professional and personal lives, particularly in the crucial post-childbirth period. By fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment, we can empower women to thrive in their careers without sacrificing their family life.

What Marc Roca Bravo values about Ellen

When reflecting on Ellen’s notable qualities, her resilience stands out as a beacon of inspiration. Despite the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and single mothers in our industry, Ellen’s unwavering determination and self-assurance have propelled her forward, serving as a guiding light for others. Her innate ability to connect with clients on a personal level, coupled with her strong belief in her own capabilities, exemplifies her exceptional leadership. Ellen’s enduring commitment to fostering inclusivity and empowerment serves as the foundation of her profound impact both within our organisation and the broader ecosystem.

(Press the + sign to read)

Other Participants (Click to view answers)

Allen Architecture Interiors DesignTurner & TownsendSummertown InteriorsWarû X DesignsmithJLL MENA • Brand Creative

Brand Creative

Carla Conte
Founder & Creative Director

In navigating the landscape of modern business, technology has become an indispensable tool. Whilst the speed and immediacy afforded by digital tools are undeniable assets, I’ve also observed their negative impact on mental well-being and creative output. It’s essential to recognize that thoughtful and strategic design requires time and consideration. As a proponent of innovation, I advocate for a balanced approach that prioritizes the quality of creative output over mere efficiency. In pursuit of this balance, I hope to see more leaders in the workplace championing shorter work weeks/hours and honouring an employee’s personal time so that we begin to foster environments where creativity flourishes, and burnout becomes a relic of the past.

What Carla values about Boutros

Boutros stands out for his remarkable honesty, a trait that positions him as one of my most valued people in my life. Whether engaging in critiques of studio projects, offering fashion advice, or discussing personal matters, my interactions with him consistently leave me with a heightened sense of clarity.

(Press the + sign to read)

Boutros Boutros
Head of Design & Interiors

In the next decade, achieving gender equality will require concerted efforts across multiple fronts. Priorities include closing the pay gap and ensuring equal opportunities, providing affordable childcare to enable women’s full participation in the workforce, eradicating gender-based violence, challenging harmful stereotypes, promoting women’s leadership in all sectors, and fostering inclusive education to empower women and girls. These measures collectively pave the way for a more equitable and just society for women around the world.

What Boutros values about Carla

Carla is an exemplar of resilience and success, navigating a landscape where female achievement is often undervalued. Rising above challenges, she carved her path with integrity, never compromising her principles or femininity. Her luminance stems not only from her accomplishments but also from her humility and grounded nature. In a world where stars often lose touch with reality, Carla stands out as a rare beacon of both brilliance and humility.

(Press the + sign to read)

Other Participants (Click to view answers)

Allen Architecture Interiors DesignTurner & TownsendSummertown InteriorsWarû X DesignsmithJLL MENAXBD Collective

Related Articles