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News Jan 18, 2023

Bringing Ambitious and Like-minded Leaders Together in Riyadh

Jacobs Women’s Network explored the value of gender equity in bringing sustainable social value to our communities and the world.


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is experiencing a flurry of transformative development reflecting Vision 2030; an ambitious roadmap to diversify the economy and drive the nation into the future. We have worked in Saudi Arabia for more than six decades and continue to embrace opportunities to be part of the country’s history, present and future development. During this energized time, our event Meta[more]phosis brought together impactful leaders to encourage collaboration and continued dialogue about gender equality and inclusion to spark more innovative and sustainable development in the Kingdom and beyond.

The event combined networking with two panels and a short workshop to lead the group to agree to seven actions that everyone (attendees, our employees and industry stakeholders) could commit to. Jacobs Head of Strategic Consulting in the Middle East Grace Moujaes kicked off the event with a keynote speech and Jacobs Vice President and Global Head of Program Management Bryan Harvey delivered closing remarks..

"If we consider the three pillars of Vision 2030 - A vibrant society, thriving economy, and an ambitious nation - the underlying power is the empowerment of society by attracting diverse talent, providing people opportunities, and engagement of everyone from society,” Grace opened. “So, in other words, considering inclusive and sustainable growth."

She challenged everyone in the room to be a storyteller; using individual experiences to develop our path forward in a more inclusive world.

Panel 1: Gender Equality and Its Role in Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs)
Moderated by Jacobs Principal Consultant for Sustainability and Climate Action Mala Alahmadi

  • Jamila ElDajani, Business Communications Manager | KPMG and Chair of Women in Business | AMCHAM KSA
  • Dr. Manal Al Makoshi, Director of International Cooperation | Authority of People with Disability
  • Maryam Telmesani, Chair | UN Global Compact Network

The first panel addressed how the panelists approach sustainability and can achieve the UNSDGs. Maryam Telmesani shared an impactful perspective; that gender equality affects the ability to achieve all the other SDGs. To reemphasize this point, Jamila ElDajani encouraged everyone to understand that being empowered as a leader means building up others . This can be accomplished through creating growth opportunities, encouraging employees to embrace similar values, and, as Dr. Manal Al Makoshi brought up from her broader perspective on inclusion, advocating for accessibility and inclusion.

The takeaways from this conversation underscored that we should not try and address all 17 goals at once, but rather focus on goals that are part of a company's strategy, test ideas, and continue learning how to improve our processes, include more people, and understand how finding solutions for one goal can contribute to others along the way.

Panel 2: Inclusive Leadership in Promoting Sustainable Innovation
Moderated by Reem Habib

  • Dr. Maha Aldaihan, Project Management - Private Sector Participation Program - Vision Realization Office (Ministry of Health)
  • Mishaal Ashemimry, Special Adviser to CEO (Saudi Space Commission)/ VP for Diversity (International Astronaut Federation)
  • Mansoor Hanif, Executive Director, Emerging Technologies (NEOM)
  • Dan DeSemple, Vice President, Executive Director of NEOM The Line | Jacobs

The second conversation challenged the panelists to dig into the tangible ways companies can support gender equity while delivering innovative solutions. Dan DeSemple shared that the monumental project efforts in Saudi Arabia require innovative thought and new solutions to problems that don't even exist yet; and that in his current role, the team is learning how to try new things, and in this process get comfortable with “failing fast” and “learning quickly.” To bring a broader group of perspectives to the table and come up with ideas, he talked about the initiatives and targets Jacobs is using to hire more inclusive talent; including the 40-40-20 initiative as a way to quantify change and provide a goal to help improve this diversity of thought.

Mansoor Hanif echoed the call for innovation; seeing opportunities for leaders to mentor employees in a way that everyone is working toward the economic development that will ultimately affect people's lives. The work being done now should be an accelerator of human progress. As part of this progress, Dr. Maha Aldaihan pointed out that women can bring natural strengths of resilience and creativity to their teams; and present a diversity of thought leadership to our next human achievements.

Mishaal Ashemimry suggested that we need to acknowledge where we are; not be embarrassed about our starting point, so we can illustrate our advancement through meaningful change. She emphasized that we need to give people room to be who they are. When we do this, it will become irrelevant what gender or background our teams are from - because they will naturally represent the skills, inclusive backgrounds, and abilities to innovate that are required for the job. 

Jamila and Mansoor neatly brought the panels together by noting that Saudi Arabia is in a good place to have it all; economic growth, meeting Vision 2030 objectives and positively providing what people need to flourish in their lives.

Bringing it all together

The panel sessions prompted a lot of discussion during a short workshop where the group engaged in discussions at their tables. The room buzzed with conversation while each table came up with small commitments in the form of "I will..." statements to challenge those in the room and everyone who sees them to make small commitments for gender equality that can manifest into meaningful transformation - a true Meta[more]phosis.

Can you embrace one of these statements to make your own personal impact and be part of the movement?

Pick one of the statements and share it on LinkedIn and your social media profiles.

  • I will… use empathy in my decision-making to build trust in open and collaborative teams that encourage innovation in the workplace.
  • I will… enable all people to come to work with security and confidence so they feel their value and see their contribution to  work and society.
  • I will… actively identify my unconscious biases and lead by example to continuously work on removing them.
  • I will… facilitate diversity in representation to create visible opportunities for employees to see themselves in leadership positions while encouraging some to leave their comfort zones.
  • I will… create and build policies that illustrate the significance of  inclusive human capital by raising awareness and sharing ideas with others.
  • I will… listen to employees and act on feedback by aligning  individual and collective capabilities with organizational and strategic objectives.
  • I will… be an advocate to promote initiatives that foster systematic and cultural change by sharing best practices, improving human resources policy, and promoting safe and inclusive environments.

Taking small commitments away to make big change

Bryan's reflections focused on Saudi's Vision 2030 and inclusion, noting that we have "great opportunities in this great Kingdom through Vision 2030." He used the example of the movie, Hidden Figures, to share how women, even when unseen, have been a part of history, particularly in the space industry. He encouraged everyone to take the "I will..." statements  and build on them at work and in our communities and home lives. His commitments were about mentoring and empowering people around him - and "leaving no one behind." 

Are you ready to be part of the movement toward gender equality? Jacobs Women’s Network in the Middle East drove this conversation in Saudi Arabia in 2022, but we can all bring value to our part of the world. Share your personal impact statement on social media and join us to create a more connected, sustainable world.