For the first time ever in Saudi Arabia, a major women’s economic leadership forum will take place in Riyadh in December. The forum is being held by Naseba, a business facilitation company specializing in emerging markets. Naseba will gather over 250 leading women, business leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers and youth from around the Kingdom and the region to discuss Saudization, female entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion. Past participants have included Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Sheika Hissah al Sabah, Chair of the Council of Arab Businesswomen.
In an interview with Arabia Now, Sophie Le Ray, a co-founder of Naseba, said, “Over the last few years roles undertaken by women in society have shown tremendous change. Women are becoming stronger, confident, powerful, wealthier, and a lot more participative in society. In Saudi Arabia we witnessed several appointments of women that established a pattern and now they are in almost all important areas, be it business, politics, or any other professional field. Yet, the highest number of unemployment is among females and university graduates, therefore a very big focus of the forum is discussing how to bridge the skills gap, nurture and retain talent.”
Held under the name “Let’s talk about Tomorrow”, the two-day forum will feature engaging conference sessions, inspiring keynotes, hands-on workshops, executive round tables and facilitated networking sessions. The forum is designed to contribute to enhancing the Kingdom’s competitiveness internationally, enable and inspire organizations to truly progress and equip attendees with actionable takeaways for a more sustainable economy.
Speaking to Arabia Now about the objectives of the conference, founder Sophie Le Ray said, “There are four key objectives that we hope to achieve. Emphasize and vividly demonstrate the crucial role of women to the future of Saudi Arabia for key stakeholders and policymakers to review gender policies and make the necessary investments that will ensure gender equality and thereby effectively utilize the world’s greatest untapped resource – its women and young entrepreneurs. Connect Saudi Arabian entrepreneurs and young leaders to provide them with an opportunity to tell their stories, encourage the development of existing networks and the formation of new ones. Inspire the birth of new ideas, goals, and sustainable connections. Provoke established women in leadership positions to mentor the next generation of young female leaders.’
Under Saudi Vision 2030, women and the youth are an important part of the sustainable development of the economy. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute says that if women participated in the economy equally to men, it would add up to $28 trillion, or 26 percent, to the annual global GDP by 2025.
Miss LeRay, who has also written a book, ‘Game Changers: How Women in the Arab World Are Changing the Rules and Shaping the Future’, went on to tell Arabia Now, “Adding women into the workforce improves corporate governance, productivity and the overall performance of a company. Increasing foreign direct investment is a key objective for Saudi Arabia, and employing women will make the country more attractive to foreign investors. It will be easier for international companies to open offices and hire talent. “
As the Kingdom has seen since the announcement last year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Vision 2030, career opportunities, entrepreneurship and diversification of the job market are expanding at a rapid rate. With job fairs for women already under way at several major cities in Saudi Arabia, this Women’s Leadership Conference is another step of achieving new goals for female empowerment in the Kingdom.