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Champions of gender parity honoured at 18th Global WIL Economic Forum


October 24th 2016, Dubai, UAE – Today, over 500 leaders from around the world gathered at the 18th Global WIL Economic Forum, held at the Ritz-Carlton DIFC in Dubai. The forum is organised by Naseba under the patronage of the UAE Ministry of Economy. His Excellency Mohamed Ahmed bin Abdulazziz Al Shihhi, Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, gave the forum’s opening address and presented the WIL Achievement Awards. The award ceremony was the highlight of the forum’s first day, honouring organisations and individuals for their contributions to advancing gender parity.


This year, the judging committee named Lina Khalifeh, Founder of self-defence club SheFighter, ‘Female Entrepreneur of the Year’ for her work in empowering over 10,000 women throughout the Arab world. Khalifeh has previously been recognised for her work by US President Barack Obama.

Multinational healthcare company Roche took home the award for ‘Most Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Initiative’. The company’s years of dedication to diversity and inclusion has resulted in 23% female representation in key leadership roles.

“Unlocking the potential in every member of our team is an integral part of our business strategy. This inclusive culture is something we actively instil at Roche worldwide. Diversity for us is beyond gender and our efforts are optimized when the knowledge and expertise of men and women are leveraged equally – regardless of their age or background. The commitment to creating a positive environment where every idea is important helps us innovative technologies that ultimately help save people’s lives – and that is priceless,” said Harald Wolf, General Manager at Roche Diagnostics Middle East FZCO.

“The award for ‘Most Woman-Friendly Employer” was given to AstraZeneca in the MNC (multinational corporation) category. AstraZeneca’s woman-friendly culture of inclusion and its global and local commitments to gender diversity ensure that the leadership potential, talent and important contributions of its female employees, who make up half of its senior leadership team in the Gulf and over one third of middle managers, are recognised and nurtured.

Samer Al-Hallaq, Area Vice President, Middle East, AstraZeneca, said “A focused D&I strategy is one of our key HR and strategic business priorities, and we take great pride in our dedication to developing a strong and diverse pipeline of leaders. I am privileged to be working with such an outstanding and diverse team.”

The coveted ‘Honorary WIL Achievement Award’ was given to Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, for his decades of tireless dedication to alleviating poverty throughout the world, and his crucial role in allocating World Bank funding to important global causes like climate change, Ebola and the Syrian refugee crisis.

Additionally, Sarah Amiri, Deputy Project Manager – Science Lead, UAE Mission to Mars was named ‘Leading Woman in the Public Sector’; Rafiah Ibrahim, President and Head of the MENA region at Ericsson was named ‘Woman Game Changer’, and the ‘Male Champion of Change’ award was presented to Majid

Kaddoumi, Vice President & Managing Director at Medtronic. British Orchard Nursery won the award for ‘Most Woman-Friendly Employer” in the SME category.

In his opening address, His Excellency Al Shihhi focused on the history and future of gender balance in the UAE, highlighting that the country “has always led the rest of the Gulf region in terms of gender parity and recognising the valuable contributions of women to society. Gender parity is woven into the very fabric of our country. The UAE Constitution asserts that social justice should apply to all, and that women are equal to men before the law.”

He added “The UAE aims to be one of the top 25 countries in the world for gender equality by the year 2021, and we are well on our way to achieving this goal.”

Foreign government officials were also in attendance at the forum, including Ketevan Bochorishvili, Vice Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, and Elena Kountoura, Alternate Minister for Tourism at the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism of Greece.

Bochorishvili participated in a Ministers’ talk show moderated by Mohammed Al-Otaiba, Editor-in-Chief of The National, alongside His Excellency Al-Shihhi and H.E. Prof. Hassan Diab, Former Minister of Education and Higher Education of Lebanon. Kountoura contributed to a personal talk show hosted by Claire Sharrock, Managing Editor and Deputy Managing Director of 7Days UAE.

Over the course of the forum’s first day, attendees heard from a variety of other inspiring speakers, including H.E. Dr. Aisha bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office; Chetna Sinha, Founder and Chairwoman of the Mann Deshi Foundation; Thea Myhrvold, Founder and CEO of Teach Me Now; and Rapelang Rabana, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Rekindle Learning, named one of Forbes magazine’s ‘30 under 30 – Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs’.Leaders from the corporate world participated in a best practices’ panel titled ‘Not just CSR: Embedding diversity into the business’ DNA’. Moderated by Dawn Metcalfe, Managing Director of PDSi, the panel hosted Harald Wolf, General Manager of Roche Diagnostics Middle East; Javier Barrientos, Senior Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Biogen; Nathalie Amiel-Ferrault, VP of Customer Experience and Marketing at FedEx Express; and Sobia Rahman, VP of Business Planning & Strategy, MAAE at Western Union.

The sponsors of the 2016 Global WIL Economic Forum are AstraZeneca, Roche, Merck, FedEx Express, EY, PepsiCo, Western Union, Johnson Controls, NBF, Bechtel, Baker & McKenzie and Devji Aurum. The forum is further supported by IE Business School as the exclusive knowledge partner, and Bentley as the official luxury car partner. The exclusive communications partner for the event is Golin MENA.

For more information on 2016 Global WIL Economic Forum, please visit www.wilforum.com.

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