Mentorship for professional women drives progress for gender parity in the Middle East workplace


Reach Mentoring annual event highlights progress and potential in addressing diversity and development of women leaders in business

Reach, the first non-profit organization dedicated to structured mentoring and leadership development for women professionals in the Middle East, hosted its third annual event in Dubai recently to deliver a 360-degree perspective on milestones achieved, and outline future plans for 2017-18.

Attended by representatives of both the Reach board and advisory committee, sponsors, supporters, mentors and mentees, the event included an overview of the organization’s achievements to date, delivered by Reach co-founder and board member Farah Foustok: “I am delighted to report another year of exceptional growth for Reach, during which we successfully paired more than 200 mentors and mentees. This achievement is one that motivates us to expand the program further, not only in numbers, but also in new markets, new partnerships and new tools that enable us to extend our reach quite literally.”

The past year saw Reach offer structured mentoring programs in both Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and develop a tailored mentoring program for the 30% Club GCC – the regional chapter of a global business-led initiative for achieving better gender representation in senior leadership positions. The launch of a ‘Reach Rungway App’ will provide women with further access to mentoring.

Delivering the keynote address for the evening, Lubna Qassim, Executive Vice President, Group Chief General Counsel & Company Secretary at Emirates NBD highlighted the role of mentorship in developing a career path for UAE women.

“Mentoring is extremely important - it is about sharing knowledge and experience for the advancement of the society as a whole. Although I did not have professional formal mentors, I was fortunate to be surrounded by many influential female and male figures who have helped and guided me along my career path – from pushing boundaries to taking on challenges and being taught to give unconditionally. I believe that encouragement and support is vital to the professional and personal development and success of women.”

Rana Ghandour Salhab, ME Talent and Communications Partner at Deloitte Middle East and a Reach Advisory Committee member, highlighted the role of mentoring in helping to build confidence in women professionals.

“Whether or not they feel this, men adopt an attitude of confidence in the workplace that women are much less likely to display. It is one of the most prevalent issues for women in their careers. Mentorship is particularly valuable in helping to build confidence – working with someone who has had experience in building a career and who can recommend approaches to situations, people and tasks will help women advance their careers more successfully.”

Providing a mentee’s perspective on the value of Reach mentoring for her career, Zainab Kufaishi, a successful Institutional Client Director at Invesco Asset Management shared her insights: “Reach has been a fantastic initiative that I have had the pleasure of being enrolled in for two cohorts, and have benefitted enormously from the guidance and wisdom of two mentors. Through Reach I’ve taken on significant challenges and navigated internal politics - I have also be able to learn different perspectives and new ways of doing business outside of my organisation and even industry.”