In a one of a kind virtual event hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain on 25-26 January, over Zoom, WomenTech Leaders was the most important meeting for women leaders in the field of technology from more than 20 countries. Women leaders shared their experiences besides the challenges they face in the society and in their work field.
During his opening speech, Mr. AbdulAziz Qambar, CEO of BTECH, welcomed all participants in this event, stressing a new era in the region where a comprehensive digital transformation is on the horizon, notably with all the projects and initiatives that are being put forward to keep pace with the future phase and the active role of women. Qambar affirmed Bahrain's and BTECH's belief in women’s role for the prosperity of the Arab region.
The first panel discussion titled Women in the age of digital transformation: Pushing business leadership forward, moderated by Ms. Hala Suleiman, founder and managing director, Beyond Borders Consultancy, Co-founder, AlRawi Media; and with the participation of Ms. Maha Mreich, senior vice president, TransformationB2B and Etisalat Digital; Ms. Myriam Ghedas, general director, Vocalcom MEA ; and Ms. Reem Asaad, vice-president, Middle East and Africa, member of the board of directors of Cisco, Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA).
First off, Reem Asaad pointed out the importance of implementing the digital transformation agenda in all public and private sectors as soon as possible to keep pace with the transformations induced by the pandemic; that requires attention by the organizations to adopt technology in the long-term as well as developing technological innovations and solutions. Asaad referred to the initiatives and partnerships undertaken by Cisco in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to spread digital transformation programs on a larger scale and support young skills at the same time.
Ms. Maha Mreich from Etisalat stressed the importance of a common culture between society and technology requirements to employ the right skills and support new projects needed in the region. Speaking about the policies adopted for business continuity during the pandemic period, Ms. Myriam Ghedas pointed to the role of virtual communication in light of the pandemic, as the majority went to work, shopping and e-learning. The pandemic also lead to the increase of smart apps usage to communicate virtually via online platforms.
Ghadas considered that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation while changing the behavior of customers around the world regardless of their position or age, especially with the change in the environment around us, highlighting the most important leading women in the IT sector who have made many achievements in this field. As for the role of organizations in emphasizing the role of women, Maha Mreich considered that new technology skills should be recruited and a balance between men and women should be created.
The discussion took then a turn whereby speakers drew attention to the challenges faced by women as companies moved to hybrid work, as they were unable to adapt to the new reality quickly and work virtually. Hence, Ghadas emphasized the role of companies in general, as active members in this field in particular, in integrating women and young women into technology fields and accepting the positive outcomes that it will bring to society. Last but not least, Reem Asaad considered that we are now in a skills war and it is time for companies to attract new skills in the Middle East and Africa, which is today a fertile ground for embracing digital transformation and technological career development.
Finally, the speakers emphasized the importance of enhancing women's self-confidence to venture into the field of technology. Just as men have been able to advance in the world of digitization, women can also assume many positions in the field of technology.
The speakers talked about artificial intelligence taking over our world and dominating human capabilities. In this context, Ms. Maha Mreich considered that our world is connected to millions of data, starting from our homes to our cars, to smart apps and online platforms. Today, we are witnessing the era of metaverse and virtual shopping. We can’t talk about the actual control of artificial intelligence, but it is enough to know how to use it, especially in smart cities.
The second panel was entitled, Digital transformation in government: Towards smarter nations! and it was managed by Ms. Yasmin Al-Enazi, chief operations officer, Women in AI – UAE. The dialogue happened between Dr. Huda Al-Khzaimi, president of the Emirates Digital Association for Women; Ms. Maryam Al-Muhairi, president of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE, DFFMs; Ms. Nibal ldelbi, head of innovation, ESCWA, Ms. Nani Butti, director of information systems at the ministry of youth and sports affairs in Bahrain and Ms. Samia Melhem, global leader in digital capabilities, World Bank.
The panel discussion focused on the importance of artificial intelligence and technology to business and data development: Today's technological organizations depend more on digitization. However, this requires a digital infrastructure as well as the necessary skills to implement technology and integrate it with all data while adopting long-term solutions. The panelists also talked about open data owned by governments which carries many services for the state and citizens. The speakers also drew attention to the importance of women's participation in the digital economy and their role in the prosperity of this sector, and its reflection on the development of their careers through the adoption of technology.
The third panel entitled: Technical talk: From a business perspective, was moderated by Ms. Doha Abdel-Khaleq, managing partner, ESKADENIA Software, and saw the participation of Dr. Huda Al-Khzaimi, president of the Emirates Digital Association for Women; Ms. Rima Diab, from Galax; Ms. Majda Lahlou Kassi, head of network solutions, Ericsson Middle East and Africa; Dr. Rima Abbasi, director of the Higher Institute of Technological Studies in Communications - Tunis.
The speakers discussed digital transformation services in the post-covid era, which led to the use of more cryptocurrencies and the development of the digital economy with the integration of artificial intelligence and the fifth generation to build a strong digital infrastructure that adopts all these investments around the world. On the other hand, Rima Abbasi emphasized the importance of cybersecurity with the increasing number of cyberattacks that may affect everyone without exception. Therefore, future plans must be elaborated to meet the upcoming challenges. On the other hand, the panel dealt with the existence of robots designed to manage our business and develop our skills in various fields in preparation for future careers, and women today are working to understand robotics more.
The fourth panel discussion, entitled: Women in financial technology: Restructuring and closing the gap, dealt with the role of women in the financial sector and the dominance of the mobile phone and its use to complete financial transactions electronically easily and without high costs. Women benefited from this transformation to establish and manage their businesses online with the opportunity to pay online. In the same context, the following dialogue, moderated by Ms. Mariam Al-Foudery, addressed the role of women in the digital economy and supporting digital services in the Middle East and North Africa region.
As for the last three panel discussions of the first day, a group of women technical experts gathered to discuss the role of women’s leadership and their skills in cybersecurity and health care, as well as their role in adopting and disseminating technology.
Mr. AbdulAziz Qambar delivered his opening speech on the second day of WomenTech Leaders, saluting all of those who contributed to the success of all the panel discussions on the first day, counting on the success of the second day.
Ms. Lulwa Sami Ibrahim, director of communication and marketing information at the e-government Authority, Kingdom of Bahrain, started the first dialogue session, in which she discussed the role of public relations in managing the technology sector, with the participation of Ms. Nadine Khawaz, director of marketing and communications - Microsoft Business Applications Middle East and Africa, in addition to Ms. Rana Dababneh, head of public relations and corporate social officer, Orange Jordan and Ms. Zahra Al Zayat, senior vice president, OSN. Because of the pandemic, media companies have adopted a new strategy in the Middle East and Africa that expands the reach of technology as websites, smart platforms and social media dominate. This has led to increased investment in smart applications that respond to user requirements.
In an interesting dialogue moderated by Ms. Nadine Shammas, president of The Life - Chair of Creative Women, UAE, women leaders in the technology sector shared their experiences in the labor market with Ms. Alanoud Al Hashemi, CEO and founder of The Futurist, Ms. Diane Al-Hashem, co-Founder and president of Related, Ms. Maha Al Balushi, managing director of the Oman Technology Fund, and Ms. Rania Qudsi, CEO of Global HCI. They pointed out the importance of the technological transformation that raised women's productivity and allowed them to adapt to the new reality.
The last panel was moderated by Ms. Dina Al-Shenoufy, chief investment officer, Flat6labs, with the participation of Ms. Amal Dukhan, partner, 500 Global, Ms. Helen Al-Azizi, founder of BizWorld UAE, Ms. Reem Goussous, managing director, Endeavor Jordan, and Ms. Yara Milbes, global marketing director director, Infobip. This session raised business challenges, especially after women's entry into this field, and the need to achieve a gender balance between men and women to enhance women's capabilities and support them in this long journey.
Finally, Mr. Abdul Aziz Qambar concluded, thanking all the women who shared their experiences and their work in the technology sector in this unique event, and launched a few poll questions with the hope of meeting next year.