PepsiCo chart the growing influence of Saudi women on the Kingdom’s private sector through a panel discussion

As part of its commitment to empowering women across the Kingdom to fulfil their potential, PepsiCo has further developed their partnership with The Atlantic Council by launching the Saudi Women Innovators Fellowship (WIn) program in partnership with the U.S. embassy and Georgetown University.

The program is set to continue the journey of empowering Saudi women entrepreneurs, to build scalable businesses. A progressive conversation around the topic of ‘The rising female workforce in Saudi Arabia and its impact on the private sector’, took place in the form of a panel discussion featuring a lineup of leading industry professionals to highlight their efforts in empowering the Saudi female workforce, within their respective organizations.

With the labor force participation rate for Saudi women rising, the session explored the vast transformation of the Saudi labor market and the opportunities these changes present, most notably for women in the private sector.

H.R.H. Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States, shared her thoughts on the subject matter as the virtual keynote speaker for the event and Michael Ratney, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabiahad delivered the opening remarks prior to the anticipated panel discussion.

PepsiCo was represented by Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Wael Ismail, alongside industry experts and thought leaders Dena Elkhatib — General Counsel, Riyadh Air — and Hattan Ahmed — Entrepreneurship Director at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

The discussion saw an opportunity to showcase the wide range of initiatives, programs and partnerships launched to provide women greater access to the Saudi private sector and labor market and showcase PepsiCo’s work championing female empowerment and entrepreneurship.

Wael Ismail, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, PepsiCo AMESA, said: “We are living through a dynamic time in the Kingdom, which is also positively affecting the region at large. We hope this program plays a positive role in further strengthening local and regional exchanges of knowledge, resources, and nurtures practices that will facilitate social, cultural, and economic development.” 

“Partnering with the Atlantic Council to sponsor the WIn Fellowship Program is a great opportunity for us to fulfill our commitment of empowering Saudi women, as part of our Tamakani flagship initiative. More specifically, the female entrepreneurs, as we support them in leading thriving lives and careers, while playing an active role in contributing to the Saudi Vision 2030’s mandate, of propelling the Kingdom’s economy to social prosperity,” added Wael.

Amjad Ahmad, Chairman of EmpowerME at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, adds “Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major socio-economic transformation under its Vision 2030 agenda, with women’s empowerment as a cornerstone. In the past five years, the labor force participation rate of Saudi women has increased by 67%, from 21% in 2017 to 35% in 2022. This trend signals a significant shift in government policies, which are now more supportive of women’s labor force participation.”

The event reiterated the importance of innovative offerings such as Tamakani, the platform launched by PepsiCo in 2019 to shape an equal, inclusive, and thriving society. It is dedicated to supporting and inspiring generations of women in the Kingdom.

The program delivers mentoring and networking opportunities with leading U.S. and MENA experts and business executives. It offers access to a tailored executive education program by Georgetown University, in addition to workshops with leading experts. It also provides a fully sponsored trip to the U.S. for the top five performing participants. The top five WIn Fellows of 2022 are Sumayah Alzamil, Co-founder and CEO at Nugttah; Dr. Rawan Al-Kharboosh, Founder and CEO of AtPoint; Renad Aljefri, CEO of Ad Astra; Meyce Alauddin, Founder and CEO of The Giveaway Co.; and Sara Bin Ladin, Chief Technology Officer at Quantum Platform.

With the success of the inaugural cohort that included 33 fellows in 2022, this year, PepsiCo and the Atlantic Council have selected 34 fellows as part of the second cohort — spread across a range of sectors, including information services, entertainment, creative agencies, healthcare, retail, technology, education, and event management — from Saudi Arabia.

Based on interviews conducted with the top five WIn fellows of cohort 1, the consensus found was networking to be the favored element of the program, while testimonials from the second cohort, including Rana Taibah, CEO of Prince Sultan Rehabilitation Complex and the CoFounder of Eunoia and Dr. Reem Turky,  CEO of Innovation Source est.,  note the unwavering support they have received just from the initial phases  of the program. Taibah says “I am honored to have been a part of Win fellowship program and to have had the opportunity to learn from such a talented group of individuals. The event was truly inspiring, and I am grateful for the knowledge and insights that I gained from it. Through this program, I have developed new skills and broadened my perspective, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on my professional growth and future goals. I highly recommend this fellowship to anyone looking to expand their horizons and make a meaningful contribution to their field.”

Programs such as Tamakani have been instrumental in promoting greater diversity and inclusion in Saudi Arabia. With figures showing an increase of more than 38% in female entrepreneurs, companies such as PepsiCo have played an integral role in guiding and nurturing the future generation of Saudi female leaders. The rising female workforce in Saudi Arabia and its impact on the private sector underscores the need for even more productive partnerships and initiatives to empower more female leaders and changemakers.

Through Tamakani, PepsiCo aims to empower one million Saudi women by 2030. In keeping with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives, the platform has been built on three main pillars: “Amplifying Voices”, “Facilitating Mentorship” and “Fostering Entrepreneurship”.  Since its inception, PepsiCo’s Tamakani initiative has proudly empowered more than one hundred thousand Saudi women.

To learn more about the WIn Fellowship and PepsiCo’s partnership with the Atlantic Council, please visit:   Atlantic Council.

Testimonials for the five aforementioned WIn fellows from Cohort 1 below:

Sumayah Alzamil, Co-founder and CEO at Nugttah, said: “When I joined the WIn Fellowship program, I asked myself what I would gain — and give back in return — by taking part. Meeting likeminded female entrepreneurs was the highlight of my journey. This journey will continue, which means the ecosystem will only continue to grow.”

Dr. Rawan Al-Kharboosh, Founder and CEO of AtPoint, said: “The number one success of any venture is built on networking — not only with likeminded women entrepreneurs, but also powerful women from the Middle East that are transforming the region and highlighting women’s potential on a global scale. I am proud to be a participant of the WIn Fellowship program and aim to use it to serve as a champion of female empowerment.”   

Renad Aljefri, CEO of Ad Astra, said: “I really wanted to be part of the program. I’ve learnt so much from it, with the diversity of leadership styles on show truly inspiring. If there is one thing that I have taken from the program it is that being different — especially when it comes to approaches to leadership — does not make you incompetent. Through the program, I learnt how to work with others and communicate better. I, like my fellow participants, also benefited a lot from the networking opportunities that we were provided — be it with mentors or guest speakers. I am truly fortunate to have joined the WIn Fellowship program. My message to future entrepreneurs is to follow their passion and knock on all doors.”

Meyce Alauddin, Founder and CEO of The Giveaway Co., said: “The WIn Fellowship was instrumental in equipping me with personal, entrepreneurship and leadership tools that I did not possess prior to joining the program. Today, more so than ever, it is important to learn how to problem solve and think outside the box. The program created a welcoming space and encouraging environment to learn and improve these skills.”

Sara Bin Ladin, Chief Technology Officer at Quantum Platform, said: “Joining the WIn Fellowship program proved to be an amazing experience. I especially enjoyed the networking component of the program. Networking is crucial. Be it for your mental health, getting that extra push to set you in the right direction, or just to have likeminded people to discuss the challenges you face, networking can really help transform your prospects. The WIn Fellowship helped us — as participants — to find one another and learn how we can grow together, take the next steps forward and make a bigger impact within our respective fields.”