The following is excerpted from Game Changers: How Women in the Arab World Are Changing Rules and Shaping the Future, an award-winning business book by David David B. Jones, Radhika Punshi, and Sophie Le Ray. The book is the first of its kind to showcase the transformative power of having women in the workforce across the Arab world. It discusses the challenges and successes of women in this region, addresses commonly held stereotypes and myths surrounding the subject, and provides a bold view on actions that can be taken to support greater gender diversity and inclusion at work and in our societies. Game Changers also features inspiring interviews with leaders in the region, highlighting why the ongoing inclusion of women in workplaces is no longer just the ‘right’ thing to do, but also the ‘smart’ thing to do.




Overcoming Stereotypes and Achieving Success



"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."



While searching for the WIL Economic Forum, we were fortunate in interacting with a few great men and women who passionately promote gender diversity within their organizations. They educate their children, support their government’s policies and are active proponents of what was for very long considered as a minority cause.

But these individuals see it differently. They understand the value behind words like gender diversity. They understand that these concepts are not just for women, but are part of human advancement that will create a talent pool for all, which would then create an improved and healthy economy and society. Still, the word is hard to utter: ‘feminism’.

I can relate to this as a woman and a lifelong-closeted feminist; I never considered myself as part of a minority, I was one of the boys at school. At work, I thought that to build a career, all you needed were sheer passion and combativeness, and in no way did gender have anything to do with success—blocking it or helping it.

It’s only later in my career that I realized that there were fewer women within my network. All these bright, passionate women I knew from university, or at an early stage in the corporate world were slowly vanishing, taking breaks or getting stuck somewhere between middle management and … middle management.

I chose entrepreneurship not just to build a career but because I wanted to be the captain of my own ship. However, I now understand that many women choose entrepreneurship because they feel their full potential is not exploited in another setting. What a feast for entrepreneurship but a shame for the corporate world.

It was when I was preparing for this book, meeting these exceptional individuals and writing these lines, that the notion I had always suppressed blurted out of my mouth one day during a discussion with a friend. He commented that I sounded ‘a bit feminist’, to which I replied,

‘Good, because I am a feminist!’

What a better definition of feminism than the one given by a man:

"Feminism is about women reshaping and redefining long-held perceptions of women through their achievements in all fields, especially business and enterprise. Feminism is not a concept, which should exclusively look to women for support. It is the responsibility of society as a whole to work together to instil the concept and values of feminism to help women claim their rightful role in society and in their field of work."

Badr Jafar, Managing Director, Crescent Group, and Founder, Pearl Initiative

However, for most of us, the term feminism still has a negative connotation. Rania Mostafa, the global HR business partner at Roche Diagnostics Middle East, believes that this negative connotation comes from women trying to mimic men’s behaviour, when the two genders are distinctly unique.

When talking about feminism, the stereotypical image of an angry, man-hating, borderline paranoid woman advocating female domination comes to our mind. As a result, we find ourselves prefacing statements about the need for equality and civil rights for women with the disclaimer, ‘I’m not a feminist, but ...’.

The Principal of HEADSTART Consultancy, Manal Al Bayat believes that the negative association with the word feminism can be removed by replacing feminism with female empowerment, because this talks about removing obstacles from a woman’s way so that she is able to achieve her true potential.


* * * * *

Game Changers is priced at AED 125.