SBWC mentoring UAE’s business women to reinvent themselves and thrive in the post-Covid era

 Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), has equipped 48 of its members with the right tools, knowledge and motivation to advance in the business world through a diversified workshop series with the central theme of post-COVID business recovery planning.

Held in partnership with global technology leader Mashreq Bank, Mastercard, and 33Voices, a high-performance learning organisation and business accelerator, the four-part workshop series titled ‘The Reinvention of Business Post-COVID 19’, concluded (Monday, August 9).

Senior executives from Mastercard and Mashreq Bank led the action-oriented workshops that commenced on July 12 to identify solutions and design new frameworks to address the most pressing challenges of conducting business in a post-COVID world, thereby strengthening Sharjah’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for women.

HE Sheikha Hind bint Majid Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SBWC, said: “This workshop series, held in collaboration with 33Voices, provided trusted business guidance and education to our members, empowering them to develop long-term strategies to minimise risk and transform obstacles into opportunities for growth. Learning the fundamentals of successful business building from industry stalwarts will enable business women and female entrepreneurs to innovate and adapt through better risk analysis and cashflow strategies while also honing their leadership skills.”

Defining insights from engaging workshops

The need to learn, reprioritise and change, was the common thread that ran through the four workshops, helmed by Moe Abdou, Founder and Principal of 33Voices. He said: “There’s no work being done in the region and the world at large that carries more significance than the work of female entrepreneurs and leaders. It’s a deep privilege to have the opportunity to work with the SBWC members’ community to contribute towards their next stage of growth.”

Smart risk management

For 80 percent workshop participants who were unaware of the benefits of digital business banking, the finance-oriented workshop hosted by Vikas Thapar, Head of Business Banking and NEOBiz at Mashreq, led to greater awareness on the tailored digital offerings for SMEs and offered insights into smart risk management steps for growing a business in the post-pandemic era.

Mashreq executive Vikas Thapar commented: “As an active supporter of entrepreneurship and gender diversity, Mashreq is proud to participate in this event, and lend our insights to inspiring women entrepreneurs who are a key part of the UAE’s economy. During the workshop, we had the opportunity to provide women business owners with strategies to manage their finances efficiently and explore ways to raise capital as well as collaborate with banks and other financial institutions. We look forward to participating in similar initiatives in future.”

Navigating leadership challenges

Even as women entrepreneurs are reshaping market dynamics, SBWC members pointed out that a range of challenges including ‘designing a bigger future’ and ‘attracting and retaining talent’ were preventing them from achieving their business goals or diminishing their ability to get ahead in business.

A large majority – 69 percent – cited ‘personal development’ as the key challenge of a female business leader.

Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships, MEA, Mastercard, who led a thought-provoking workshop on exploring meaningful ways to enable women lead their companies into the future, said: “It was inspiring to connect with the passionate businessowners who are driving our nation’s flourishing economy. We are delighted to partner with SBWC and 33 Voices to bring together budding entrepreneurs and SMEs from diverse fields and support them in their business journeys. Mastercard will continue to foster the UAE’s entrepreneurial drive and empower businesses with the tools and know-how to pursue their dreams as part of our global commitment to bring 25 million women entrepreneurs into the digital economy by 2025.”

Digital payment technologies

For 70 percent of SBWC participants who had not yet switched to digital business banking for digital/online payments, the workshop on business payment solutions was a pivotal learning curve to understand how to grow and optimise their operations.  

Zeynab Diakite, Commercial Products Lead, MENA, Mastercard, who led the workshop, said: “SMEs today are acutely aware of the changing business landscape. With consumers embracing e-commerce more than ever, the digital world is not in the future – it is here. We are proud to work with SBWC and 33 Voices to support and enable SMEs in their journey to go digital and grow digital. Mastercard has long championed diversity across the communities that we operate in, and we are committed to encouraging and supporting the entrepreneurial spirit of the UAE’s women leaders.”

Female leadership

Aimee Peters, Senior Executive Vice President, Group Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications at Mashreq Bank, led a leadership excellence session on August 2, and discussed how a modern female leader can identify and build the right business culture through team building and people development to achieve organisational excellence.

SBWC members gained understanding of the critical importance of effective communication with both employees and customers and all of them agreed with the concept that ‘People grow companies and leaders grow people’.

Peters commented: “Diversity has been proven to drive better outcomes. Therefore, nurturing an inclusive corporate culture – so that every employee can realise their ambitions and can benefit from the talents of all the people who work in an organisation are tremendously important. This is even more true as work transcends beyond traditional borders in an increasingly remote-working world.