This year, the CIPD Middle East People Conference coincides with International HR Day. In the spirit of celebrating the work of people professionals and shedding a light on the profession and good practice, we will be profiling #CIPDME speakers leading up to the event on 19-20 May 2021.

In this piece, we discuss life paths and raising boys to be champions of change with Christine Belanger, Senior Manager – Rewards, Performance and Workforce Planning at Mubadala Health. 

What did you want to be growing up? Tell us a bit about your path.

This is probably not what you’d expect from someone in a corporate HR role… Since a very young age, I always loved doing sports. My favourite activities were swimming, running, figure skating and gymnastics. At 8 years old, I was ‘discovered’ as a gymnastic talent and was enrolled in a professional gymnastic club and into a sport school that provided a flexible educational curriculum built around my trainings and competition. I loved the pressure to compete, to perform difficult routines and in front of a crowd! From a very young age, this helped me develop my psychological strength and determination as well as the discipline needed to be on top and face my fears. 

This will stay with me for the rest of my life. Once I stopped competing, I became a coach and enjoyed the mix of technical knowledge and psychological skills required to train and motivate the athletes… This is when I realised that working in a domain that would utilise my people skills was a must for me. So, I went on to study Psychology, worked as an Educational Psychologist and then moved to Human Resources – all fields that utilise my interpersonal skills, my abilities to coach and handle difficult conversations. I was able to provide support to employees by being compassionate and demonstrating empathy. The career in HR brought me here in the UAE where I added another skill and set of experience to my repertoire: working with a multicultural/generational workforce.

Wow – that is quite a career change! We often hear about the glass ceiling. Have you ever felt “stuck” in your career?

We as women might face different struggles and often need to be more convincing than our male counterpart. That said, I believe that we also create our own ‘glass ceiling’. Either by not believing or trusting ourselves, by being over demanding and/or wanting everything to happen too fast. Also, we all get stuck in our lives (male and female), as women, I have observed our tendency to be emotional about it. Life brings many opportunities, keep an open eye for them!

What is one myth about women at work that you wish you could dispel?

We are too emotional!

As a woman in a leadership position, what do you think is your role in enabling more women to go up the ranks? / What do you try to do?

Being a role model, keeping myself real and humble. Mentoring other women and sharing my experience. Demonstrating my added value to my male colleagues and our leaders. Sharing with my son my role, what I do during the day, my accomplishments, so he becomes a man that will cherish working alongside women and support them in a leadership role.

What would be one piece of advice for women who want to ask for that raise, a promotion or more inclusive policies? 

Choose the right time and go for it!

Christine is a speaker of the CIPD Middle East People Conference, taking place on 19-20 May 2021. To find out more and register, visit or email 

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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.