World Leaders stress need for a new approach to leadership
Prominent regional and international women leaders marked International Women’s Day by gathering at the Burj Al Arab Hotel today for Woibex 2008 - 10th Global Businesswomen and Leaders Summit. The two-day summit, which is organized by Datamatix Group and sponsored this year by FORSA and Virgin Megastore, featured empowering keynote speeches from the Hon. Mary Robison Former President of Ireland, HE Dr Masoumeh Ebtekar, Former Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Mervat Tellawy, Ambassador, League of Arab States.
Opening the summit, Ali Al Kamali, Managing Director Datamatix Group, thanked Raja Al Gurg, President of the Federation of the UAE Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Women's Committee, for her long standing support of the summit over its 10 years. He went on to urge the region’s women not to be complacent and satisfied with what they have achieved so far, but to continue to push forward and continue to apply themselves or they will risk being left behind.
The day’s sessions opened with the first keynote address if the day, delivered by the Hon. Mary Robinson, who discussed the need to link women inter-regionally, inter-culturally, and inter-generationally to address issues affecting women all over the world. She stressed the need for women leaders to begin to make a contribution to vital concerns like security, on which, traditionally, they have not had much of a voice, but which affect women drastically all over the world and the emergence of a new type of leadership amongst women that shows solidarity. She went on to say that it is important to address this issue of women’s leadership in the Middle East at this time because, in order to achieve balanced and sustainable development and security it is imperative to empower women. “Every development expert knows that, in order to have stable development, you must empower women and girls” she said, adding that businesswomen have an important role to play in this because “every successful woman encourages other women.” She concluded by emphasizing the importance for leaders to think globally and act locally. “We have to be interconnected internationally, but we have to make a difference in our own environment.”
Following Mrs. Robinson’s speech, Dr. Ebtekar delivered a second key note address Leadership for Peace and Sustainable Development: The Spiritual and Feminine Factor which discussed the need for “feminine approach” to leadership in the current world scenario that is overshadowed by war and terrorism. “The global challenges that we face today, are undermining peace, security and sustainable development in many parts of the world. War, terrorism and armed conflict have led to an increase in the sense of insecurity. In addition to the low number of women in decision making positions, there is general understanding that the lack of affection, love and feminine attitudes in the governing of world affairs has led to an aggressive masculine grip over world affairs” she said, adding “I think the main challenge we face today in global governance is the quality of leadership. In dealing with the current state of affairs, what comes into mind before anything else, is to find solutions that would bring about a revolutionary change in the manner we manage the world. This change in policy and practice can only be envisaged at the expense of a major transformation in our worldview and attitudes on life.” She went on to say that the suppression of feminine attributes by both male and female leaders has led to the an escalation of confrontation and war and that leaders and political leaders need to achieve an internal peace to balance out selfish urges and drives before making decisions that will directly impact the lives of others.
The third keynote speaker of the day, Dr. Tellawy, delivered a message from Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States which pointed to the change in the status of women in the Arab world since the establishment of the Arab Women Organization under the Umbrella of the League of Arab States. “An important change has already taken place in the role of women in the Arab world, wherein they have gone from being just a segment of society that is dealt with in the framework of policies to an entity which has an active role in the formulation and implementation of those policies”, she said and mentioned the new roles in government that women have begun to assume as well as policies that have been implemented which have led to the economic empowerment of women pointing to the establishment of several commissions and boards for businesswomen and women’s Stock Exchange, the involvement of non-governmental organizations in several development programs private sector funding, project support and micro-financing for women–run projects. She went on to discuss the need for further participation of women in the Arab nations’ political and business arenas and the challenges facing the Arab community as a whole and issued and invitation to all businesswomen from the region to attend preparatory meetings for a summit that will, for the first time, include the participation of members of both private and civil society. Arab businesswomen are encouraged to submit a proposal to the summit regarding what they want and need and what they need for leaders to do to facilitate them. After delivering the Secretary-General’s message she went on to stress the need for women to concern themselves more with political issues, issues of war and peace, and economic policy and globalization. “We must change the agenda of what we talk about and concern ourselves with these critical issues.” she said, pointing out that 2/3 of the world’s poor and the world’s refugees are women and because social programs are the first to be cancelled when governments face crises, it is women who suffer most.
Representing the United Nations Development Program, Dr. Khaled Alloush, spoke on the Achievements of Arab women over the part two decades. He presented a series of charts and tables illustrating the changes that have taken place in the status Arab women in terms of life expectancy, literacy, levels of education, employment, economic progress between 1980 and 2005. The report focused on 4 dimensions – health, education, economics, politics – and illustrated the areas where significant improvement has taken place and where improvement is still needed. According to the report, in all of the Arab countries, women have made gains in terms of increased life expectancy and literacy. There has also been an increase in the percentage of gross secondary enrollment rates in all countries except for the UAE which witnessed a slight decline. The percentage of gross tertiary enrollment rates showed a marked increase in the majority of Arab countries with the greatest seen in Libya where the rate rose from less than 20% in 1980 to just under 60% in 2005. Five of the six GCC nation’s showed a significant increase, however in Qatar, which had the highest percentage of 19 nations in 1980 at 40%, reported a slightly lower percentage in 2005. Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti and Mauritania, which reported slight increases, still remain below 10%. Mauritania and Djibouti also remain under 10% in percentages of gross secondary enrollment rates. In most Arab nations, female participation in economic activity increased over the past 15 years with the greatest increase seen in Libya. However Mauritania, Djibouti, Sudan, and Egypt reported a decrease. The report compared the percentage of female professionals and technical workers in 4 GCC nations, 6 other Arab nations and the US, Philippines, Singapore, and Japan. The GCC nations showed the lowest percentage – particularly Saudi Arabia at well under 10%. The report also showed an improvement in women’s involvement in the political arena, their representation in the education field and the ratio of female to male earned income compared to Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway.
CEO of event sponsor FORSA, Shamsa NoorAli Rashid delivered the 5th address of the day entitled “Women – a Different Approach to Leadership” In her presentation, Rashid concentrated on women’s approach leadership and examined how people achieve results through various leadership styles. She went on to analyze the skill sets required to build and lead businesses and stressed the importance of recognizing one’s own uniqueness in achieving greater success with less effort and presented examples of the most effective styles of female leadership. The presentation concluded with an overview of how the idea of female leadership applies to life at FORSA.
Speaking on the importance of innovation in staying ahead of the game in management and leadership, Hoda Barakat, Managing Partner and Head of IP/IT Department, Al Tamimi & Co., pointed out that the fast rate of change in today’s world has increased the pressure on organizations and leaders to come up with new ideas and solutions at a faster pace than ever before. “Innovation is a pre-requisite for any successful organization. (It) is what gives life to business in a competitive market. The businesses that don’t quite make it or fail later under pressure of a changing economy have failed to innovate appropriately” she said, stressing that innovation is the only sustainable advantage and that because top management plays a pivotal role in driving innovation, management skills alone are not enough for success in today’s business world, and that in order to lead innovation successfully top executive must have a visionary purpose and growth attitude. “Establishing an attitude of relentless growth is what enables an organization and its people to achieve their goals. The spirit of relentless growth keeps fresh ideas flowing and reinvigorates your company. Thus, the primary challenge facing market leaders is to institutionalize an environment where every decision and direction can be constantly and safely reassessed”
In the final speech of the day, Kathleen Kurre Executive-in-Residence Institute for Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Georgia Tech, USA and President, Fusion Advisors, LLC focused on the elements of entrepreneurship in her presentation Passion, Entrepreneurship, Technology - Leadership’s New Frontiers with a look at women entrepreneurship on the US. According to Kurre, in the US 69% of women owned businesses operate in services, 14.4% in retail and 7.7% in real estate rental and leasing, with the range of businesses extending from life style to growth companies. She also discussed the technical, management and personal skills that are required for entrepreneurship, pointing out that the skills required are innate in women. She pointed out that Infrastructure matters, and that even in the US women don’t have access to a lot of financial services, but on the up side most women own all or the majority share of their own companies. She concluded by discussing the role of technology in entrepreneurship and listed various areas where technology can be used as a tool, especially as a means to connect people and gain access to new markets and information. “Technology gives us access to markets that we never had access to and gives us range and scope we never had before” she said.
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