Live blog: Arabian Business Forum on gender diversity as it happened

BBC journalist and ITP chairman Andrew Neil. (ITP Images)

1.54pm: We move to questions from the floor. One delegate points out that Dubai already has many initiatives designed to help SMEs, but says for expats that already have a job, the incentive to start up a business is so strong. Sarah Jones admits it is not easy to find start-up cash, requiring perseverance.

Another delegate picks up on an earlier claim that licensing fees represent the majority of capital investment. She argues that, actually, there is "huge bureaucracy" here in Dubai and that the start-up costs are higher and more numerous.

Jones says, ultimately, if you have a good business idea, you should be able to go out and raise money, even if it requires effort. If you do not, then maybe you should think again. The panel argues that it is no more difficult to raise seed capital for SMEs in Dubai than it is anywhere else.

Claims from the floor that banks are charging interest rates of up to 22 per cent for start-up loans are met with horror from the panel, which concedes that it would be impossible to run a small business with such crippling interest.

They say that it is still very difficult to get funding from mainstream banks' loan facilities – Ajlouny said she went to a bank claiming $11 million in cash but still couldn't get a loan – and that entrepreneurs need to explore specific financing routes for SMEs.

With that, the forum wraps up. Arabian Business thanks all of our speakers and delegates for joining. 

1.45: Manar Al Hinai, who founded Anjaz, a platform for motivational talks, raises a key debate in the UAE today – the cost of setting up a business in the UAE. She adds, though, that it doesn't matter if you're a man or woman. There is also a lack of mentorship, she says.

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"Success takes time. The idea of having a mentor is still very new," she says. 

Neil asks the panelists and interesting question: why are women are still 'way under-represented' in the top positions in the public sector and even more so in top corporate positions, but are doing so well as entrepreneurs? 

Al Hinai says she feels the UAE has come a long way in improving women representation on boards. Even just in the past five years, she's seen a lot of changes. Entrepreneurship is in Emiratis' blood, she says. But the culture needs to change in corporates. 

Ajlouny says the focus needs to be on 'how do we help entrepreneurs?'

"I'm completely against this 'is it harder for a woman is it harder for a man?'. It's hard, period. What we need to do is make the ecosystem more fertile ground for entrepreneurs to come here, to strive."

"I would say the cost of setting up a business here is extremely expensive. It's hard enough or businesses like IBM to come here and they have billions of dollars. 

"Dubai is the best of the region, not a question about it, but guys we can do so much more," she says, adding that the costs include licensing fees, hiring drivers, sending them home once a year, et cetera. 

She adds that Fletchr has $11m in funding but still can't get a company credit card because it has not been operating in the market for three years.  

Al Hinai agrees that set-up costs are too much in the UAE, while Jones says when she started her business, she had people working from her home and could only hire those who already had a visa, such as women on their husband's visa. 

"It becomes easier but it's a super challenge at the moment," she says. 

Al Hinai says the hurdles can be so high and the costs so prohibitive that some people are turning to Instagram to illegally sell items without a business licence. 

We now open the floor to the audience to ask questions. 

The first comes from a woman who directs her question to Ajlouny, pointing out that she has spoken on countless panels discussing the difficulties for women and for entrepreneurs in the region, but asks what productive actions is she taking to solve those issues.

In her defence, Ajlouny turns the tables on the media and says it needs to present what they are saying more prolifically. Neil responds by saying that she has simply passed the buck to the media, raising more questions without answers. 

Al Hinai, on the other hand, says she is having discussions with the Abu Dhabi government. They know what is going on, she says, and are working on improving it. 

Addressing the finance issue, Dunlop says access to finance is tough and there is more evidence now of disruptive models of funding, such as investing angels, where people further into their careers are offering to mentor others to make a real difference. These include Beehive and some informal angel investing networks – groups of people coming together to seek investing opportunities. 

Jones argues that education for investors is needed. She says people in the UAE are scared to share their money, where as in the UK and US it is the standard way of supporting start-ups. 

Neil brings the discussion back to the topic of whether women are concerned how having a child will impact their career. The women panellists fully agree. So, could being an entrepreneur be a middle ground?

Jones, aged in her 20s, says she could not be a mother and do her job. Her aim was to set up the business at 25 years old, get it to a point where she can afford to take some time off. 

Ajlouny ‘absolutely agrees’ she could not be a mother and do her job. 

But she says, her goal is ‘to accomplish something greater than yourself’, referring to her business. 

Ajlouny, a Palestinian who grew up and lives in the US, argues that Arab women have the mindset that they are only successful if they have a husband and a child. 

"If I don't have children, I'm a failure," she says. "I remember my mum apologising to everybody, 'she's not married'. 

"It's still embedded in my head that finding a husband and getting married is success. I think we're fighting that as well." 

Dunlop says that research by the Pearl Initiative has found that attitudes are changing. 

"As there are more fathers whose daughters are entering careers and seeing how successful they are and the value of dual income they become more supportive. So perceptions of working mothers are changing and improving in the region," she says.  

1.27pm: Our third panel, on women and entrepreneurship, is now under way.

Moderator Andrew Neil starts by asking if it is any more difficult to raise money for female entrepreneurs.

Joy Ajlouny, co-founder of start-up delivery service Fetchr, says just 2.7 per cent of all funding goes to women founders in Silicon Valley. An astonishing figure, but she says that raising money is always difficult and gender does not matter.

"It's not necessarily harder or not harder, I just think more women are not in technology itself," she says, explaining in part why such a low percentage of funding goes to women founders.

Neil asks if it is a factor that it is men handing out the money.

"Completely," Ajlouny says. "In Silicon Valley, there was recently a backlash that nearly all vice-chairmen were men. They realised 'uh oh, we need a token women'," she says. "Now, every venture capitalist has got a women to sit on the board."  

Neil asks if women are not as successful in convincing investors to trust them with their money.

Ajlouney responds: "I find it extremely empowering that I'm standing in a room full of guys and I'm pitching for money."

She says if a woman goes into a room with a serious pitch, investors respond to that. "I've found they respond to my seriousness, my business plan, and I conduct myself accordingly," she says. 

Sarah Jones, a young British female entrepreneur who started MiniExchange, an online marketplace, in Dubai in 2014, says there are enormous hurdles in starting a business in the UAE no matter what gender you are. She gave up her "cushy" job at a top firm to start the business two-and-half-years ago. 

"Taking that plunge and being young – I was 25 years old – people do look you like you're crazy and have no chance of succeeding," she says. "Being a woman, there was stigma too, but that gave me drive. I'm competitive. It wasn't something that held me back. But setting up business is unbelievably difficult." 

Ajlouny jumps in again to say: "If you're going to be a woman and do this [start a business] you can't have the 'shame gene'. You can't be affected by someone slamming the door in your face." 

Neil asks the entrepreneurs on the panel if they have ever felt that investors won't back them because they are a woman. Jones says: "Absolutely not."

"To be honest, being a young British woman, you stand out. There are couple of minutes where people doubt [you or your idea], but I think when people see how tenacious you are, the doubt goes out the window." 

Imelda Dunlop, executive director of Pearl Initiative and, has created and managed a number of entrepreneurial ventures. She says investors assess the leadership team – the skills, not the gender. 

12.40pm: We now have some questions from the audience. A man asks the panel how they would confront an argument about women and salaries.

Al Khateeb immediately responds by saying that her female boss insisted at the time that she hired her that she was seeking the best people, no matter their gender.

Jaffer continues on the point, definitively stating that a business is a business, not a charity. It must hire the best people, despite their gender. 

She also says that the 'sheer number' of people in the world – 7 billion – makes a business case to hire women. If they were cut from the selection process, half the talent pool is cut. 

The next question from the audience asks the panelists what their companies are doing to create flexible working arrangements for women. 

Moopen laments that a lot of networking events are held outside of working hours, which can often exclude women because they like to go home to their families.  

Siddiqi adds on that her firm is not a fan of "presenteeism". "It's not about being in the office, it's about delivering," she says. 

With King Abdullah Economic City located 1.5 hours from Jeddah, parents who need to be home in Jeddah for a little while are allowed to work remotely, as long as their work is done. The firm is also currently studying how best to support staff, especially women. 

As we start to wrap up the panel, Jaffar says she would love 'to get to the point where we were gender blind', when considering both clients and colleagues. 

At the same time, she suggests that we cannot assume every women wants a job or a challenging role. "We have to recognise it's a woman's choice," she says. 

"What i think is most important, is if a woman chooses she'd like to go down a specific path she should have all the support to do that. I cannot stress enough it's a woman's choice. If she wants to go into a demanding profession she should have every support to do so." 

Moopen agrees. She has two sisters. While she wants to work hard, one of her sisters is more family involved and that is what makes each of them happy.

"The most important thing is you are true to yourself," she says.

And that is a fitting way to end this, at times personal, panel discussion, which has helped to provide insights to the challenges, barriers and also benefits for women at high professional levels.

We are now taking a short networking break and will return in half an hour for the third panel, on women and entrepreneurship.

12.15pm: The discussion now turns to motherhood and maternity leave, including the fears of it among some senior male bosses.

Siddiki says she always thought of herself as a professional, until she became a mother of twins and 'life changed completely'. 

"Now these issues are so much more real to me," she says. "And as a senior director I feel it is my duty ... to start addressing concerns and really make sure we have mentors, not necessarily female mentors, to make sure these women rise to the level they need to be at." 

Jaffar says motherhood made her more grounded and far more efficient and organised.

"So for me it's been a fantastic thing," she says. "However, if I think about it from a work environment, when I was pregnant some of the senior partner were taking bet on whether I would come back. It's not exactly surprising but it's not encouraging.

"They don't realise it's a serious issue they need to work through and work through it with me. People are trying to move forward but not everyone understands what that means."

Moopen says her support system is so important for her to balance work and family. 

Sometimes men are too concerned about the impact of maternity leave of family impacting on a woman's work to hire or promote them.  

"I think men, and the private sector, can be too short-term focused, that's difficult when you think about all the women who are going on breaks [for maternity leave], but if you build an environment where women feel they can be in the organisation for a long time, you're creating a company that will have a much higher value and provide more for society as well," she argues. 

The discussion now turns to millennials and what they need in the workplace. 

Al Khateeb reveals that she left a higher-paying job in the public sector that had fewer working hour to move into the private sector, at consultant firm Brunswick. Despite the reduced compensation, she sees benefits in both sectors. 

"I was looking to become an internationally competitive individual," she says. "I wanted to gain the kind of experience that will get me to become a professional. Joining Brunswick... gives you exposure. It's like bootcamp. It gives you greater exposure to more sectors and markets. It's been a big learning curve. [But] as young professionals we should be thinking five to 10 to 15 years down the line. 

"It's up to us to take ownership of our careers – people say what should companies do, what should governments do, but we need to take responsibility ourselves." 

The private sector needs people from the region and the UAE needs international companies, she adds. 

Siddiki says the environment will shift as more millennials move into the workplace. Instead of prioritising retention, companies will need to prioritise being the 'employer of choice', so people can say 'this is a firm I do want to go to and learn from'. 

"That's going to play in favour of women because they'll be able to do shorter stints, they'll be able to choose, freelance more, be more flexible," she says. "I think it's shifting in the right direction for all kinds of reasons but one of them is simple demography, changing attitudes." 

Jaffar, who works in a male-dominated sector, says it is easier for men to talk about their after hours activities, while women can often be unsure of how others will respond. But she says: "I think the biggest mistake women can make is to try to be like men. Women have different characteristics. I think we should just own up and take pride in that." 

The conversation turns back to motherhood and balancing work. 

Moopen agrees with a suggestion from Lott that people want to work for her because she has successfully balanced work and family life, an achievement that many women seek. 

She says companies need to make adjustments for women in the workforce. For example, she leaves the office at 4pm to spend a few hours with her children before they go to bed. Then she is back on her laptop from home from 9pm to 2am. 

"My work is not affected," she says of her flexible working hours. "The traditional nine-to-five jobs are only applicable for men – and not even men anymore." 

With so much technology etcetera that allows for flexible work, she asks 'why should we have these boundaries and these shackles?'. Flexible working arrangements helps more women come into the workforce and hopefully inspires more women to move up the ladder. 

11.59am: Dr Saeeda Jaffar, managing director of financial institutions advisory firm Alvarez & Marsal, says men have it easier because growing up they are exposed to their fathers, uncles, grandfathers who are all working.

Women, on the other hand, are exposed to female elders working and others who do housework, sending mixed messages.

"It's not realistic to expect to be everything to everyone, you've got to figure out what you want, what makes you happy," she says, echoing Moopen.

"I have found a balance that works for me, it might not be the right balance for you, but that's fine I'm not going to judge you for that and no one else should." 

Meanwhile, young Emirati account director at Brunswick, Fatema Mahmoud Al Khateeb, says she never thinks of herself as a woman in a business, she's just a professional striving to do her best. 

The microphone returns Siddiki again and she says that change has to come from the top. King Abdullah Economic City, where only 11 percent of staff are women, mostly at junior level, has trained about 100 women from neighbouring villages where social norms are more extreme and 70 have been employed at the port.

The city had to address their concerns, which she says has helped increase efficiencies and create a happier working environment where needs are addressed. 

"We cannot expect social norms to change, that is not the best and organised way of doing it; change has to come from the top," she says. 

11.30am: We're now starting our second panel, on the next generation.

Moderator Brian Lott, executive director group communications at Mubadala, says there's a lot of ambitious women coming forward now. But what needs to be done to support them?

Dr Asma A Siddiki, senior director for special projects at Emaar Economic City in Saudi Arabia, says there are three key barriers in her country: family, the ban on driving, and expectations. 

Saudi Arabia still has a cultural barrier that impedes on women, she says. For example, women can't even drive, which inhibits their mobility to and during work. Not all families or family members support women to work, either, she says. 

Siddiki says the public sector is giving it some attention and the private sector is making movements. "Private sector is definitely working towards hiring more women. In some cases, it's a self-serving move," she says, referring to the benefits that women can provide to companies. 

Alisha Moopen, executive director and CEO of Aster DM Healthcare's GCC hospitals and clinics, says the environment that women live and work in makes a big difference. 

"When you see how much respect women are given here [in the UAE] you can see the advancement for them," she says. "There are limitations because of cultural barriers and those things will take time.

"But more than anything, the biggest limitations are the ones we put on ourselves. We keep comparing ourselves and wanting to have it all. What does having it all mean?"

Moopen says she compares herself to men, but says she also compares herself to women who bake goods to take to their children's schools, and also woman with the model look. 

"I need to work out what is the right balance for me, what amount of guilt I can handle. Once you have that balance internally you can work better," she says. 

"It can be blended – undue expectation where I'm compared to the best of each of them can be a bit unrealistic."

She says it is great for women to stretch themselves, but often women will not accept a promotion or challenging role for fear of not being able to deliver on the role, while men on the other hand are more willing to say 'I'll take it on and then I'll figure it out'.

10.56am: Deloitte partner Ghassan Turqieh now makes a presentation as we prepare for the second panel. 

The Deloitte research highlights great differences between expat and national women working in the UAE. Expat women are seen as having greater equality at home, sharing responsibilities with their husbands, says Turqieh, and are also more willing to take maternity leave without feeling guilty for doing so.

Local women, according to Turqieh, are seen as having greater ability to negotiate in their homeland. They are viewed as being more determined to succeed. 

He says a survey of executives in the region found that the culture needs to change to make truly tangible steps for that shift to equality to take place. 

The UAE is leading by example among the GCC countries, he says. There are more women at the ministerial level and much participate in private family businesses. Other countries are also doing something similar but the UAE is leading the path and could help other countries.

"This is a time to act," he says. 

Companies need to have proper plans for women to get to the top, whether it is better mentoring, coaching for career progression. "This has to be done to a natural environment rather than pushing things. Quotas could help but the general perception is that we need to do more in the public and private sectors." The 30% Club should be a great forum to take those ideas forward, he says. 

10.37am: Lubna Qassim – the highest lawyer in the largest bank in the UAE – says her country has "demonstrated a beautiful example", with some "amazing" women holding prominent positions.

But she agrees with Dr Habib that the number of women in high positions was not enough. 

She supports the government's quota legislation but she wishes the equality would come naturally. 

"Corporate cultures need to take ownership of this," she says. "It's not about having a woman because she takes a fashionable accessory on the table. I'm definitely against all of that." 

While she used to argue it should only be natural, she now believes quotas are needed get the ball rolling. 

"If it's not going to be a quota how are we going to increase gender parity?” she says. “In order for us to reach gender parity, we need quotas.”

Hoda Abou Jamra, founding partner at TVM Capital Healthcare Partners, agrees that quotas are required.

"There's more and more data to show that unless you put something in place, it’s not going to grow,” she says. “When it becomes balanced, yes take the quota away.”

"We're not asking for something special for women, we're asking for something that just better reflects what the world looks like." 

When chair Andrew Neil asked Jamra why women are not in top positions, she said it came down to recruitment, adding that men like to recruit men and women like to recruit women, but with so many men doing the hiring, they need to be willing to employee or promote women in top positions. 

She replies to point made earlier by Dr Habib that if there are two candidates going for the same job the woman will be chosen to fill a quote.

"What's wrong with that? It's about time they picked the woman," she says, to applause from the audience.

Jamra receives further applause when she says: "It seems to me that every time there is an excuse for not hiring women". 

"The key is to give those firms a list of all the people who could make it on to such boards.”

She also quashes excuses of some companies who says they cannot find appropriately qualified women, saying: "To all those companies that say they cannot find appropriate qualified women for their boards, we will help you. How can you refuse such an offer?"

Qassim says men need to be trained to shed their ‘unconscious bias’. Men are still thinking of bringing women to the table for image reasons rather than because they genuinely feel that it would improve the performance of their firm, she adds, insisting that male CEOs' mindsets need to be changed ‘so they aren't thinking, oh they have great legs and so on!’.

Neil then asks Dr Habib – the only man on the panel – how he feels about having to be "retrained". He says men need to choose female staff for their qualities and that that is crucial. 

Neil then asks Catherine Beckett whether the situation is better in the public or private sector. She mentions new requirements for UAE publicly listed companies to reveal the make-up of their boards, including gender. But Neill says such rules have been in place for years to govern companies in the West and that is has not made a huge amount of difference.

He then points out that some of the biggest, most successful companies in the world – naming Microsoft, Apple, Facebook – do not have all-women boards, before asking ‘how can you compete with this?’.

Abou Jamra admits statistics are small for companies led by women, but says ‘if we were all men, the opportunities would be half’. If investors want our money, she says, they have to follow certain requirements that promote diversity.

Qassim then responds to Neill's question related to public/private sector contribution to the agenda. The numbers in the private sector are nowhere near as good as the efforts the public sector is putting in, she argues, adding: "When I ask the multinational corporates of this world what they are doing, I am surprised they are not doing more."

The panel discussion now turns to questions and comments from the audience. 

One woman takes the microphone to complain that there will never be progression while forums such as today's include the word 'women'. Men are discouraged from attending such forums, she says. Neil responds that there are several men in the audience and he himself is always there. 

Another women says that through her work she has met men who do feel discriminated against because of the female quotas. She says the reason more women are being appointed is because they have a different thinking style, of abundance. They think that anything can be expanded on and 'that's why it's so important for women to be on boards', she says.

But she says she knows many women won't step forward because 'they don't want to be that quota'. 

A potent way to end a lively and sometimes heated discussion on quotas. 

We are now heading into the second panel, on 'The next generation' in the private sector' - a theme that is particularly relevant as the Gulf contemplates how to move forward into an era that will rely more on the private sector, with fewer jobs in the public sector. 

10.25am: The first panel is discussing gender diversity in corporates. 

It opens with partner in global law firm, Catherine Beckett, who herself has recently returned from maternity leave. She gives an example of a male colleague at another firm who complained that he had a female colleague who he wanted to be partner - then she told him she was pregnant and only wanted to be managing associate. But when pressed on whether he told the colleague of his goals for her, she replied that he had not told her. 

Beckett says the example shows that women often impose an ‘unconscious glass ceiling’ on themselves, while at the same time there's trepidation among male bosses to encourage women to aim higher, fuelling a cycle. 

"It's a dual effort that is needed," she says. 

Her firm, Dentons, has brought in coaching to allow women on maternity leave to plan how their work is managed while they're off and then how they will re-enter the firm. 

Chairman of Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, Dr Habib Al Mulla, however, contrasts the women on the panel by complaining that men are now the subject of discrimination.  

"I think there is discrimination against men in the UAE," he says, suggesting that in the public sector, if there are two candidates both equally qualified, "the choice will always be the female". 

He provides the example of the appointment of a Minister for Youth earlier this year. 

"I said it will be a female, because it will tick two boxes: young generation and women. And that's what happened," he says. "I've seen it many times. If there are two candidates, the choice is always female, because it gives a better image. I think at one stage, we needed this kind of discrimination in order to push ladies to the platform but I think now it's working as a negative way against men. I think it'll work in negative way towards women as well, because it will mean they're hired on their gender rather than performance." 

He continues his controversial commentary by suggesting that quotas are unfair. 

"I'm against these quotas, I'm against trying to impose the situation. I has to come naturally."

10.04am: The forum kicked off with an introduction from ITP chairman Andrew Neil, who warns that the GCC – and MENA broadly – lags behind Europe, the US and the West in terms of female labour participation.

"All regions are lacking in [gender] diversity, but the GCC more than most,” he says.

Citing recent research by the Pearl Initiative, Neil said female participation in the workplace sits at about 30 per cent, compared with 65 per cent in Europe and the West."

In some countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, female participation is at about 20 per cent. The UAE is slightly better at 40 per cent, Neill noted, but still far behind Europe.

He says  it's ‘clear that the younger generation will not put up with this’, and that GCC leaders are under pressure to make changes.

Next up, Lubna Qassim, executive vice-president, group company secretary and general counsel of Emirates NBD, says gender diversity is critical.

"When I was invited here today to talk about empowerment, having more women in top positions, I did not even blink my eye,” she says. “It is the 21st century challenge. The issue of women and empowerment and diversity dialogue remains a very big challenge and this is a challenge that does not pertain just to this part of the world, it is a global issue. The numbers are extremely depressing.

"Whether you look at any region in the world – it was 200 years ago when women were actually allowed to participate in the workforce. Yet the question of why there are not enough women in executive positions. Very successful female graduates – female candidates are top at schools and universities – should do well in the workforce, but then what happens to the numbers?"

Qassim gave some background on her upbringing in a household of four daughters.

"My darling father was a minority," she says. "As a businessman, someone asked him about his best investment and he said it was giving best education to [his] four daughters. Friends will come and go, but the one thing they wanted to give us was a world-class education.

"So at the age of 14, I wanted to draw my roadmap of life and what I want to become and I thought I’ll chat to my father and ask him 'what does he want me to be?'. I thought I’d get a simple answer, but he paused and said 'I have great dreams for you, but I’m not going to be setting the goals for you. It’s for you to be deciding what you want to do when you’re older'. I was at a delicate age and I had to do a bit of soul-searching. This was very important that I set my own goals at an early age and I am very grateful for the advice my father gave me."

Despite her own inclusive background, Qassim said the reality in 2016 is that the world is still led by men. "They the real game changers," she said.

She says public perceptions are difficult to change, recalling her first week at an international law firm and bumping into one of the managing partners in a lift.

She said: "He greeted me and I said yes, I’m the new one et cetera, and he responded 'Congratulations for joining us - but please don’t get married too early!'.

"We live in a world of perception. He saw an Emirati girl wearing a headscarf and was fearful that I would get married in two months."

Qassim also mentions a recent  gender parity study by ENY – which she read and ‘felt depressed’.

"It said that it would take 198 years for gender equality change to happen,” she said. “Of course, this means it will not happen in my generation, my daughter’s generation or even my granddaughter’s generation. Four generations away! I thought ‘whoa, this is pretty depressing!’ So we need more dialogue to convince intuitions to become more diverse."

Qassim cites many initiatives working to accelerate this mission, for example, the 30% Club. It was originally founded in the UK in 2010 and the UAE chapter representing the entire GCC launched in November 2015. It now has 50 member firms.

But there is plenty more to be done, she tells delegates. She says questions need to be asked of the men such as ‘what is it you need to change your mindset?’ and ‘what would give you that extra confidence in how women are able to perform?’.

Her advice to women is to work hard, give support to peers and work to celebrate and create new female role models for generations to come.

9.46am: Welcome to the annual Arabian Business Forum 2016 at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai in Jumeirah Beach Road. 

This year, we are focusing on the theme 'A Missed Opportunity? Why the Gulf needs more female business leaders'. We will tackle several key issues, including improving gender diversity in corporates, the challenges of working in the private sector and encouraging more female entrepreneurship. 

This year, Arabian Business has partnered with the GCC Chapter of The 30% Club, a group of like-minded professionals and business leaders seeking to promote women's leadership at organisations across the region. 

The GCC chair of the club, Lubna Qassim, executive vice-president, group company secretary and group general counsel of Emirates NBD, will open the forum with a keynote speech. 

Qassim will also participate in our first panel, on gender diversity in corporates. 

This will be followed by a panel on the private sector and the next generation. Panellists include Dr Asma A. Siddiki, senior director for special projects at Emaar Economic City, Dr Saeeda Jaffar, managing director of Alvarez & Marsal Dubai, Alisha Moopen, executive director and CEO of hospital clinics for Aster DM Healthcare, and Fatema Mahmoud Al Khateeb from Brunswick. 

The final panel will discuss how to encourage greater female entrepreneurship in the Gulf. 

We expect a plethora of entertaining and enlightening comments and insights. Stay tuned ...  

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