World renowned experts addressed how best to support and empower women to be successful in all areas of business and industry at the second edition of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS) today at the Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.
The day’s first panel session titled ‘Shaping Future Economies’ moderated by lawyer, Diana Hamade and with Samah Al Hajeri, Chief Innovation Officer, Ministry of Economy; and Najla Alnahdi, HR Director, Ministry of Economy as panellists, shed light on the lengths the government is going to in order to ensure more women rise to the top of their fields in both the private and public sector.
Samah Al Hajeri said, “When we speak about future economies, let’s be clear – it is a very broad platform with many sectors crossing. For example, education plays a role, and so do health and technology. All ministries related to the economy play a role, as well as those who work collaboratively to ensure parity between men and women in today’s society.”
This is a point Najla Alnahdi agreed with, saying, “Ministries cooperate in many ways. We have specific departments and roles within them that follow up with other ministries to ensure new and revised policies are achieving the aims they were devised for. We are working on specific policies over the next two years that look at where we are now, where we want to be in ten years’ time, and where we need to be in 100 years’ time. Our specialists are asking, how can we become one of the strongest economies in the world, how can we deliver the best education in the world.”
Najla pointed out that women sore very highly in education for the sciences, but that this is not reflected in the private sector. Many entrepreneurs go into domestic businesses such as flowers or fashion, but she said the next step is to elevate the women engineers, pilots and scientist to be the best they can be.
HE Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Saleh, the Undersecretary for Foreign Trade Ministry of Economy praised the UAE for jumping 23 positions to reach 26th globally for gender equality. He said the country was ahead of its goals to reach this figure and said the fact that the UAE was first in gender equality among Arab countries was a testament to the policies and hard work of the nation’s leadership.
This next session brought women experts from the finance and investment fields together to look at the challenges women face in raising capital, and offered advice on how to achieve the goal. Panelist, Shainoor Khoja, Founder and CEO - Better Business Enterprise Ltd said women are approached differently to men when seeking venture capital. “When I applied for loans, I was asked about getting married, having children, household responsibilities and those biases hold you back.”
Amina Mohammed Abdelrahim, Director of Government Communication Department - Ruwad Establishment said that some venture capitalists don’t have the vision or have the wrong vision. “Women today are stronger and more educated than ever. Customer requirements have completely changed with the advent of smart phones, tablets and digitalisation in general. Artificial Intelligence, for example, is changing how women enter the business sector,” she said.
Stating that studies have shown venture capital is biased against women, Sahar Al Katheeri, principal - Mubadala Investment Company highlighted that the tide is now turning in favour of women. Shainoor added that in 2010, US$ 3 billion in VC was awarded to women-owned enterprises globally, which increased to reach a figure of US$ 43 billion by 2018. She said the hope was it would rise to US$ 100 billion by the end 2020.
STEM and Energy: Breaking Norms
The contributions and the status of women in the field of technology and innovation were the focus of this session, moderated by Shaloo Garg, Managing Director, Microsoft for Startups, Silicon Valley, and led by a panel of industry veterans including HE Dr. Nawal Al Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA; HE Dr. Maryam Mohamed Fatma Matar, Founder and Chairperson of the UAE Genetic Diseases Association; and HE Hussain Mohamed Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research Technology & Innovation Park.
The panel explored various topics around inclusion of women in the field of science, technology, entrepreneurship, management, and energy, the enabling role of the UAE leaders, and the expectations for the coming year.
HE Dr. Nawal Al Hosany said, “We are entering 2020 from a good place. We have 50 percent female representation in the Federal National Council, 70 percent of our university graduates are women, we hold a leading rank in the Arab region’s gender equality indices. These conditions put us in a position of advantage, from where when we look to the future, we know that 2020 is going to be another great year in terms of offering our women and youth a platform to grow and excel.”
“At the Technology Park, we empower women in the field by designing specific products that cater to them and by creating a platform where women can share and learn from a global network of leaders and practitioners in the field,” HE Hussain Mohamed Al Mahmoudi added.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), WEEGS, organised by NAMA in collaboration with UN Women, took place under the theme ‘Drivers of Change’ and featured 18 theme-specific sessions.