By Bernd Debusmann Jr.
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
It was a power-packed line up of strong, courageous, inspiring and influential women from all walks of life who gathered in Dubai on Tuesday for the first-ever Women in the World Summit, Middle East.
The event was hosted by Tina Brown, founder and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media/Women of the World and editor par excellence who made what it is today and brought the to throbbing vigorous life.
“It was a no brainer bringing these brilliant women to Dubai, the magnet of the Middle East said Tina. “Amidst us is a volatile region and the UAE is the shining star. A model of peace and progress.” she said.
“UAE women are surging ahead in every sector, including aviation with UAE’s first female pilot breaking the glass ceiling,” she said
The summit — held at the recently opened Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach — brought together a number of prominent figures, journalists, lawyers and TV and film production celebrities from the Middle East to discuss global politics, commerce, science, justice and media.
“The women gathered here not only make headlines but are also behind the headlines, said Tina. “These are women who have written their own roles that are filled with drama, valour and resilience.”
Opening the landmark forum, Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, praised the advances women have made worldwide.
“The phrase women in the world becomes more powerful year after year,” he said. “More women are working in every field and more discriminatory practices have ended. More women are being educated and we see more signs of progress around the world, ” said Shaikh Nahyan.
He went on to emphasise the UAE’s role in changing global perceptions on the role of women in Arab societies.
“Women in our country have the opportunity to develop and exercise full leadership and potential,” he said. “I believe that our country is moving in the right direction. I believe this forum will change misconceptions about women in Muslim and Arab countries.”
Shaikh Nahyan concluded by saying that he believes that men and women will eventually be considered equals worldwide.
“Your work will eventually lead to the renaming of future forums,” he said. “I foresee worldwide forums, entitled, simply, ‘Human Beings in the World,”‘ he said.
“The 21st century could well be the century for women in the world.” Shaikh Nahyan expressed his thanks to Tina Brown and General Electric for organising the event in the UAE, and expressed his happiness at the presence of many prominent international female figures at the summit in Dubai. He also expressed his gratitude to Noura Al Kaabi and her colleagues on their efforts in organising the summit.
Among those who spoke in vibrant voices and told their personal stories and challenges they faced was the UAE’s Harvard-educated Minister of State, Reem Ibrahim Al Hashmey, who formerly served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the UAE Embassy in Washington DC, and who in 2014 was appointed director general of the Bureau Dubai Expo 2020.
Reem Ibrahim Al Hashmey encouraged men to be part of the global discussion on women’s role in society.
“I really believe the future will be as good as we make it,” she said. “The inclusion of men in this conversation is critical.”
Other speakers included US Ambassador to Libya Deborah K. Jones, Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, GE Business Innovations President and CEO Beth Comstock and lawyer Diana Hamade Al Ghurair, the founder of International Advocate Legal Services.
Science-oriented attendants included Hind Hobeika, the CEO and founder of Instabeat, which is developing real-time workout tracking software for swimmers, and Rana el Kaliouby, the co-founder and Chief Science Operator of Affectiva, which has developed emotion-detecting facial recognition software.
Seated in the front row was Mona Al Marri, Director General of the Dubai Media Office. Earlier, she had arranged for Tina Brown and Preeta Dawra (Managing Director, Asia, Tina Brown Media) to meet His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and Crown Prince of Dubai Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.
Also present were Emirati TV director and author Maha Gargash, MOBY group chairman Saad Mohseni, and Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International. The panel discussions were moderated by notable journalists including Washington Post Senior Correspondent and Associate Editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran, CNN anchor Becky Anderson and Al Arabiya Senior Anchor and Roving Corresponent Rima Maktabi.
Topics included American foreign policy in the Middle East, employment practices in Saudi Arabia, women in the fields of engineering and technology, and the way women are portrayed in media across the Arab world.