GENDER LEADERSHIP

Kuwait 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Ibtkar is part of the transformation toward a more equitable representation of women in leadership positions both in the public and private spaces.

Dr. Alanoud Al-Sharekh
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Alanoud Al-Sharekh is the Director of Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy, an Associate Fellow at the Chatham House MENA Program and a Research Associate at the London Middle East Institute at SOAS and the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. She has held senior consultative and teaching positions in academic, governmental, and non-governmental institutions in the Arabian Gulf and abroad. She is a board member of several academic and NGOs, chairperson of the Abolish153 campaign to end honor killing legislation in Kuwait and the neighboring region, and the “Friends who Care” project for young girls at risk within Kuwait’s social care system. She holds a BA from King’s College, London, and a masters and PhD from SOAS.

In what specific areas is Ibtkar promoting and facilitating women inclusion in Kuwait and the region?

Ibtkar has been working with both private sector and NGO organizations to promote women's empowerment in Kuwait, as well as leading the Empowering Kuwaiti Women in Politics program that included a year-long training for 15 Kuwaiti women from various backgrounds in political leadership. We have worked with large corporations like AlGhanim Industries in developing specific diversity and inclusion gender-forward trainings, and we have assisted Kuwait-based CSOs like the Women Mentor Forum in building their strategy and vision from the ground up so that they become a resource for promoting gender leadership and inclusion in the private sector.

How is Ibtkar making sure to provide the best training and assessment to women in order to enhance their inclusion in the labor market?

Our trainings are created to suit the needs of each industry, so they are culturally sensitive and include real-life success stories as well as practical guides to self-improvement. By mapping out the likely obstacles, cognitive biases and blind spots inherent in different situations, and setting out clear KPIs for monitoring and evaluating progress we prepare both women and their employers to navigate a clearer path to greater inclusion.

What positive correlation can be established between an increased inclusion of women in the private and/or public sector and levels of productivity?

Studies have shown the more inclusive teams make better decisions in less time and get significantly better results. The detrimental effects of “group think" where the decision makers all come from the same background have been well documented, a recent example would be the boardroom decisions in the lead up to the financial crisis of 2008. Increasing women's employment would increase GDP and would shift the balance towards more community-oriented projects. According to a WEF article women are 10% more productive than men in the office as they get assigned more work, and that should be recognized more than it is right now.

In what ways is Ibtkar collaborating with eastern countries, international institutions, and local governments in order to promote women empowerment in Kuwait?

We have done cultural sensitivity trainings for UK-based entities such as Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Royal College of Arts in collaboration with SOAS and have advised international NGOs such as Save the Children, as well as working with MEPI in the US through Partners Global on the EKWIP program. We see the latter as a direct translation of the 2035 Vision where women's empowerment and inclusion has been highlighted as a goal, and we have also collaborated with other institutional clients in the GCC to look into increasing inclusion and diversity in the public and private sector. We also work with a number of executive clients to develop their skill sets for aspirational leadership within their unique sectors and that is having a great impact on transforming mindsets and challenging the status quo.

What does the Empower Kuwaiti Women in Politics (EKWIP) initiative entails?

This was a year-long training that covered over 200 hours of intensive soft skills and campaign skills training for 15 Kuwaiti women whose ages ranged from mid 20s to mid 50s. Public speaking, fund raising, dealing with the media, networking, digital identity, and executive marketing where all part of the program that took place in Kuwait following a two-week study tour in the US. These ambitious women were exposed to decision makers in Kuwait and in the US including Ministers, MPs, leaders of industry, and board members of powerful NGOs. Three of these women have already announced their intention to run for office in 2020. Many of them are making a great impact on CSO activity in Kuwait following the EKWIP program, and one in particular has been courted by a current candidate running in order to help him with his campaign in the 2019 by-elections.