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Arab women leaders take spotlight at Top CEO forum

The first day of the event was devoted to women’s role in business, the economy and society

By Lulwa Shalhoub, Arab News JEDDAH: The Top CEO forum has returned to King Abdullah Economic City, yet this year the scene is different.

The 2018 edition of the one-day discussion event for business leaders and experts has been preceded by a day dedicated to Arab women in industry.

“Last year, this event was a one-day forum, and I think it’s fair to say that it was a largely male-dominated affair,” said Frank Kane, master of ceremonies and Arab News senior business columnist, in the opening session of the Arab Women Forum.

Kane said that with the fast pace of change to empower women and encourage their involvement in social and economic development, it was “appropriate, no, essential” to begin the Top CEO forum with a day devoted to women’s role in business, the economy and society.

“Women here have the support, encouragement and the backing of a pragmatic leadership,” Kane said. “We hear a lot of talk in the rest of the world about the conservative backlash to the changes underway in the Kingdom, but women here have a powerful ally on their side, too.”

The first Arab Women Forum, which is co-sponsored by Arab News and the Dubai-based publisher Mediaquest, began on Tuesday.

On the opening day, the women of Arab News took to the stage at the invitation of media personality Muna AbuSulayman, who gave a welcoming address on behalf of Arab News editor-in-chief, Faisal J. Abbas, highlighting the importance of the efforts toward gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has made major changes in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to involve more women in the workforce — and in the economic and social developments that the Kingdom is witnessing.

Vision 2030 reforms aim to increase the percentage of working women from 22 percent to 30 percent.

“In 10 months, things have accelerated … and the gender parity agenda is a fundamental one,” said Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest, in the opening session.

“With this agenda come the creation of hope and the fostering of jobs and energy. We choose to see hope with this transformation in the region,” he said.




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