Communicate proudly hosted the Women to Watch Conference for the creative, marketing, communication, and tech industries attracting over 150 attendees.
The World Economic Forum revealed in its Global Gender Gap Report for 2022 that the global gender gap has been closed by 68.1% and with the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to reach full parity. While these numbers show significant improvement compared to the 2021 estimate of 136 years – it doesn’t compensate for the generational gap that the world economy went through during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The MENA region is second in line to have the largest gender gap after South Asia with a weighted score of 63.4%. These numbers highlight the need for the region to engage in constructive dialogue around the current state of gender parity and identify the critical situation.
Leveraging its position as a news distributor and a community-driven platform, Communicate hosted the first Women to Watch Conference on 15th June 2023 in Dubai’s Habtoor Palace. The half-day conference attracted over 150 attendees from across all industries. Opening the stage, Sahar Rafique, Managing Director of NordStella – a subsidiary of Akama Holding and the organizing company said, “Over the years, our famous ‘Marketing to Women’ Forum has undergone a remarkable transformation to better align with the ever-evolving digitally transforming environment and today we’re here to present the fruit of it.”
“This conference serves as a platform that recognizes the need for inclusivity and diversity in the creative, communications, and tech sectors. This transformation was not a mere rebranding; it was a deliberate effort to address the changing needs of our industries and to create a space where women can become the best versions of themselves,” added Rafique.
As women continue to encounter obstacles on their path to personal and professional growth, the conference served as a platform for supporting women in their journey toward becoming the best versions of themselves in the workplace. The agenda illuminated the need for building a work environment that is based on providing a foundation of equal opportunities, empowerment, and inclusion. By fostering a culture that values and amplifies women’s voices, recognizes their unique contributions, and promotes leadership development, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce. Through insightful sessions, interactive workshops, and inspiring keynote speeches, participants left the conference feeling confident and equipped with newfound inspiration to navigate challenges, overcome barriers, and forge ahead in their careers.
To further extend its mission of building a supportive network, Communicate invited attendees to join the ‘Women To Watch’ social media network. This network will serve as a dynamic platform for ongoing dialogue, knowledge-sharing, and mentorship opportunities. Participants can connect with like-minded professionals, share insights, celebrate achievements, and seek guidance on their career journeys. By fostering meaningful connections and facilitating ongoing support, the ‘Women To Watch’ network aims to empower women in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.
Through this digital community, participants can tap into a wealth of expertise, engage in thought-provoking discussions, and stay updated on industry trends and opportunities. This inclusive network will continue to nurture and uplift women, creating a powerful collective force that drives positive change and paves the way for future generations of women leaders in the workplace. Over 30 experts gathered for the half-day conference delving into various important topics including the role of developing an effective DE&I strategy that enables organizations to empower their women workforce; the need to address everyday bias and prejudice in the workplace and how women can navigate through them; gender representation in tech; why and how mentors and role models play a crucial role in empowering the next generation of women.
Emma Burdett, CEO and Founder of WILD - a platform aimed at supporting women to become powerful leaders, kickstarted the day with a keynote address setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon. “The feminine flow allows us to attract our desires, and be more trusting and faithful in what the universe has to offer. Let’s channel that feminine energy, find our purpose, break through limitations, and fear, and become more aware of investing in our personal growth and development,” she said.
Followed by Burdett’s session were panel discussions, workshops, and various therapeutic activities immersing the audience into a holistic experience. Professionals from the likes of Microsoft, Kearney ME, LinkedIn, TikTok, SAP, Google, Chainsense, and more shared their experiences and success stories while offering practical advice on navigating challenges. A session tailored to highlighting the importance of mentorship among both young and established working women featured experts from the technology, film, automobile as well as PR and marketing industries.
While sharing her journey to becoming a successful filmmaker, Nancy Paton, Director, Screenwriter, and Producer based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, emphasized the importance of how among women there’s a desperate need to rekindle and embrace sisterhood. “Once we start embracing that, I think we will see such a big burst because people will get more confident not feeling like they’re being judged for everything. I’ve noticed how there is a 'bro culture' among men, where they look out for each other and support each other. They create cliques and powerful connections, helping them move up the ladder a lot faster, because of this brotherhood. This is something women haven’t pushed far enough. For the longest time I think this didn’t even exist among women,” she said.
Among the audience, Communicate hosted students from local institutions such as Middlesex University, Heriot-Watt University, Murdoch University, and Wollongong University. “I believe that organizations are on the right track in dealing with all the issues that their Gen-Z workforce is actively battling with. However, today one of the panelists mentioned how Gen-Z is being stereotyped into a certain label. It’s something I relate to very closely as I too face it in my current workplace. But, I believe that this is something we as a generation can use as a strength – because, they can put us into a box, label us but, in the end, we get things done,” said a student from Middlesex University.
Mechelin Whbi, Senior PR Executive at Sherpa Communications expressed her gratitude and enthusiasm, “It was a privilege to be surrounded by powerful women at the conference. It was such an inspirational and overwhelming experience. When empowering women is your cause, it’s important to know that you are not alone, and even better being in a room full of role models, this makes your faith only deeper & stronger.”
Another participant, Jane Abou Chacra, Social Media Strategist at Publicis Groupe said, “This conference was truly a special experience. Listening to the stories and experiences of remarkable women in the creative industry was incredibly eye-opening.”
The conference was powered by Publicis Groupe and TikTok for Business; and supported by Catch Communications, MKV Digital, Bedashing Beauty Lounge, Advertising Business Group, Mediaquest Plus, Marie Claire, HAYA, Sherpa Communications, GWPR MENA, and Stealth Production.
This piece was first published in Communicate's Women to Watch Issue 2023.