A Step Forward for Women in the Middle East

The Middle East is unfortunately not known for being a center of equality, particularly in regards to women’s rights.  So when a group of Saudi Arabian women decided to set out and create their own group it proved to be a big deal.  The three women who have created the group known as Qiyadiyat (meaning “female leaders” in Aerabic) are Su-ad Yousif, Bodour Al Tamimi and Laila Al Hassan.  The three found they lacked a network of goal oriented women who are like minded.  Thus they set out to create the group and have been met with great success so far.

The group has already had several “High Q” gatherings which sent out invites to high-profile educated women with LinkedIn and Instagram profiles.  The aim of these gatherings besides establishing a network which women can tap into to improve their job prospects, is to help women break the stereotypes and teach them to push for better treatment within their companies.  They say there is no reason for them to be held back on the career ladder due other people’s expectations or preconceived notions.  This means women need to stand up and not let themselves be defined by family life anymore.

The gatherings have attracted a wide variety of high profile speakers from around the world.  At one of the High Q sessions Sheryl Sandberg, a Facebook executive, gave a Ted talk and afterwards it was followed up by discussion on why so few women hold board positions and how this can be changed.  Hussain al Nowais, another big name, showed up at one High Q session and encouraged all of them to continue his efforts and to join his network so that they could expand theirs.  Sessions like these are helping people realize there are a lot of smart and talented Saudi women who are very capable of achieving great things.  Holding them back will only prevent them from being able to contribute to the Saudi economy.

If Saudi women have the motivation, but cannot find the jobs they desire in Saudi Arabia they could begin looking abroad in Europe and America.  This is negative for Saudi Arabia because it creates a brain drain.  Qiyadiyat has proved itself as a successful program for women and the leaders have made sure to keep the sessions positive.  This means not letting them turn into venting sessions about everything which frustrates them, but remaining positive and finding solutions.

A New Platform for Emirati Women


The struggle for equality in the workplace and society for women has existed for a long time.  While many countries in the west have made major strides there is still a ways to go.  In other parts of the world the situation has not made as much progress.  In Asia and the Middle East in particular we see men dominating a vast majority of the higher paying jobs and women often struggle to have a career equal to what the men have.  However, women in some countries are beginning to step up and help those with the passion and education to network with the right people so they can make more progress.

In Abu Dhabi of the UAE a trio of women have come together to create the first female Emirati leadership group which helps women develop their careers.  The name of the group is Qiyadiyat, meaning ‘female leaders’ in Arabic, was started by Su-ad Yousif – an economic analyst, Bodour Al Tamimi – co-founder of Bedashing Beauty Lounge and Laila Al Hassan – director of PR and communications at Abu Dhabi’s environment agency.  The three originally met in college and afterwards have all found success in their respective fields.

As their careers developed, so did their friendship, but the trio noticed they had very few co-workers who were females.  When they learned only 1.5% of board positions in the GCC are held by women they made the leap to start Qiyadiyat.  The aim of the group is to create a platform for women with ambition to connect and network with like-minded people.  Hussain Al Nowais and others have come to some of the first sessions of Qiyadiyat to encourage the women in pursuing their goals and to network with them.   People are beginning to realize keeping skilled and intelligent women out of high level positions only hamstrings a company’s capabilities.

The company’s long term aims are to help women realize they need to decide their careers for themselves instead of allowing family to define it for them.  They also hope businesses looking for strong and intelligent women will come to Qiyadiyat looking to network with the group.  This will create a successful platform which is well known, thereby helping both women and businesses come together to find each other and create productive high-caliber relationships.  The group now holds a session every two months and is planning to increase the frequency so that there are more options which will work for women who are busy and have difficult schedules.