“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
― Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
For the first time in the history, Federal Reserve Board is being chaired by a woman, Janet Yellen, whereas Angela Merkel is considered the most powerful person in Europe. Women empowerment efforts have come a long way from the last century when female members of the society were discouraged from being wage earners. But it was the norm set by those women that today we see women entrepreneurs excelling at the highest positions, encouraging more women to dream big. So much so, that even in the developing country of Saudi Arabia, one of the country’s best known directors, , Haifaa al-Mansour’s film Wadjda was nominated for an Oscar for the first time too.
In the Middle East too, women are making their mark on the corporate landscape. Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, the Princess consort of the Kingdom of Bahrain, wife of the King of Bahrain, His Majesty Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has contributed tremendously towards national efforts to empower Bahraini women – from formulating the National Strategy for the Advancement of Bahraini Women to launching the first women’s political empowerment program of its kind in the Arab region to introducing strong initiatives such as establishing Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa Award for Women Empowerment to further encourage efforts, initiatives and participation in empowering Bahraini working women as well as consolidating a policy that does not discriminate against women.
Recently, Her Highness Sheikha Hessa Bint Khalifa Al Khalifa, Executive Director of INJAZ Bahrain, was awarded the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Person of the Year Award by the CSR Regional Network. The award comes as recognition for Her Highness’s efforts with the INJAZ Bahrain organization which span over two decades.
HH has been active in youth-empowering initiatives and developmental projects which have contributed in boosting voluntary work. Her positive activism efforts are directly responsible for Bahrain’s status on the regional and international map as a leader in youth empowerment and community stability.
There is no looking back for Arab women, as we take immense pride in Masheel al Shamimri, the first Arab female rocket and space engineer, who is an inspiration for generations to come. Arab economies have taken a huge shift towards most modern technologies since Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence are becoming mainstream.
A huge impact has been driven with Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality(AR), having the ability to spur learning and skill development. Top-notch Arab company – VRXOne that ranks in top 10 companies in ARVR globally, is conducting the region’s largest ed-tech program: 1 Million Virtual Reality based Expeditions in the Middle East. With the comprehensive program from VRXOne, and standard content from Google Expeditions, the program is on its way to reach millions of school students including special education institutes and higher education, it is noteworthy to mention that the tremendous program is being delivered by a group majority of which consists of women.
Thousands of teachers have been trained to use ARVR, diversifying their skillset and empowering them with the application in the state-of-the-art technology, making them capable of bringing the classroom to life with simple tools and easy steps. Furthermore, ARVR provided the affordable means to reach educators, healthcare providers, entrepreneurs as well as new graduates in the third world countries enabling them to travel around the world using inexpensive tools and benefit from world-class education and latest technology advancements in their respective fields.
Through ARVR, much training has been delivered to professionals in 3rd world countries, where basic needs were lacking for healthcare, education, health & safety. Those well trained women are now able to empower generations to come, thanks to a simple, accessible, cost-saving, and impactful method of learn-by-doing through Virtual Reality.
Today, Middle East is home to women that are better educated and skilled than ever before and more importantly, they are motivated to forge their way ahead. Names like Dr. Fatima Al Balooshi, Former Minister of Social Development; Wafa AlObaidat, Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of Obai and Hill, Najwa AbdulRahim, Vice President for ICT at Bahrain Airport Company; and Hala Al Moayyed, Vice Chairman at Al Moayyed International Group – are synonymous to success in the Gulf world.
According to Tory Burch, an extremely successful woman entrepreneur, as more and more women become entrepreneurs, the increase in the global income per person could go up by 20% by 2030. (link) It is an established fact that women have their own niche markets and up to 50% of businesses in these markets are owned or operated by women. (link) This is a great statistics for any aspiring young female for starting grounds.
This is a good time for Middle Eastern women entrepreneurs to avail different opportunities being provided by the governments as they are actively trying to support and encourage the participation of this other half of the population in education and business and, ultimately in economy and sustainability. However, with the active involvement of ARVR-backed initiatives and projects, technology has the potential to create an entire generation of women entrepreneurs in every sector from education to corporates to medicine to engineering to politics. Now is the time, to accelerate this positive change in society and take it to record-breaking levels of women involvement in local as well as global economies.