Thursday 26, October 2017 by Jessica Combes

The 19th edition of Naseba Global WIL Economic Forum opens in Dubai

More than 600 business leaders, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, artists and youth from around the world, gathered at the Ritz-Carlton DIFC, Dubai, for the first day of the Global WIL Economic Forum, organised by business facilitation company Naseba.

More than 600 business leaders, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, artists and youth from around the world, gathered at the Ritz-Carlton DIFC, Dubai, for the first day of the Global WIL Economic Forum, organised by business facilitation company Naseba.

The forum included keynotes, high-profile panel discussions, ‘talk shows’, networking and practical workshops, with speakers exploring the significance and impact of diversity as the cornerstone of sustainable economic development.

Held under the theme ‘The Butterfly Effect – From Intent to Impact,’ and under the patronage of the UAE Ministry of Economy, the Dubai edition complements the WIL Forum’s year-long initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion.

On day one of the two-day event, delegates listened to key insights from leading personalities including oil tycoon and philanthropist Tonye Cole who discussed social impact, education and leaving a purposeful legacy with former football player and fellow philanthropist Frederic Kanouté.

Prominent Emirati speakers included HE Dr Shaikha Al Maskari, Chairperson, Almaskari Holdings, and HH Sheikha Mariam Al Mualla from the FUNN Foundation – Executive Office of HH Sheikha Jawaher Al Qassimi.

“The Ministry of Economy is proud to be a patron of this successful forum. This year's theme, the butterfly effect, shows how all of us can impact the dialogue on diversity and inclusion. It is a matter of great pride that the UAE leads the region in its effort to make women equal and proactive partners in our development. Nearly 28 per cent of our Cabinet constitutes women, which is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the world. As much as 60 per cent of the government workforce is also made up of women. We have also set up a Gender Balance Council–a significant step in ensuring equal opportunities for all,” said HH Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy.

The forum also marked the first public appearance of Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, former UAE Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, as the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.

“The question of whether to empower women to progress is no longer a matter of debate - it is simply the right thing to do socially and economically, it is the norm. All over the world, the benefit of inclusiveness is evident in the growth of various sectors. Women’s participation in the economy not only boosts development, it diversifies national economies and opens a nation up to new ideas and approaches,” said HE Noura Al Kaabi.

Before the first speakers took to the stage, HH Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, presented the WIL Achievement Awards in recognition of outstanding contributions to female entrepreneurship, leadership, inclusion and innovation across business and society.

“Diversity is the cornerstone of sustainable economic development. Gender-diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to earn above-average revenue and racially diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones by 35 per cent. Governments across the GCC region have made women’s economic empowerment a key pillar of their strategic visions. This forum is an opportunity for us to celebrate the big and small steps taken by the government and businesses of all sizes, but also by entrepreneurs and individuals, who are promoting diversity and inclusion. By bringing together the experiences of business and community leaders, we aim to draw up a roadmap to further the personal and professional development of women and provide organisations with the tools to make a difference,” said Sophie Le Ray, CEO, Naseba and founder of the Global WIL Economic Forum.

The winners across eight categories were as below:

Female Entrepreneur of the Year: Rana Akkad Attasi, founder, Modern Alternative Education

Young Leader of the Year: Mashal Waqar, CTO and Co-founder, The Tempest

Leading Woman in the Public Sector: HE Shaima Al Zarooni, CEO, International Humanitarian City

Woman Game Changer: Eng. Ghosson AlKhaled, Deputy CEO, ACICO Industries

Outstanding Contribution to Inclusion: Roche Diagnostics Middle East

Best D&I Initiative: ADCB

Most Women-Friendly Employer – Small & Medium Sized Enterprises: CTG

Most Women-Friendly Employer – Multinational Corporation: FedEx Express

“As the financial sector is increasingly embracing technology, ADCB has proven – through its initiative ‘Tamooha’ – that while automation is increasingly becoming significant, its biggest benefit is the opportunity to tap into talent in different ways. Through integrating a flexible approach to its existing processes, the bank demonstrated that it could not only attract and retain women, but continue to engage with the local population and drive diversity and inclusion in a localised manner, answering local needs and respecting local cultural norms,” said Rabab Al Jaberi, Centre Manager, Tamooha, while collecting the award on behalf of ADCB.

Accepting the award for Most Women-Friendly Employer – Nathalie Amiel-Ferrault, Vice President, Customer Experience and Marketing, FedEx Express Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa, said: “In addition to being a great place to work, FedEx has reiterated its commitment to promoting diversity, retaining and encouraging women in the workplace, and measuring the impact of its initiatives. This year in particular, FedEx proved that placing diversity and inclusion at the core of its DNA makes sound business sense, and is an example for other organisations in the region to follow.”

The chairperson for the forum, Margery Kraus, founder and Executive Chairman of APCO Worldwide, a global communications and public affairs agency, said: “We all know that diversity makes good business sense. Today’s interactive panel discussions, speeches, storytelling sessions and think tanks provide a setting for all of us to actively engage with government leaders, NGOs, private sector leaders and game changers around the world. The forum’s strong focus on enacting change through collective action reminds us that we are never too small to have an impact. It invites us to reflect upon the resources we have and provides us with the tools to take action.”

Day two of the forum will feature award-winning director and producer Vibha Bhakshi, filmmaker of ‘Daughters of Mother India’, and Haben Girma, a White House Champion of Change and Global Inclusion Advocate, and the first blind-deaf Harvard graduate.