Abu Dhabi is welcoming a diverse group of women this week as it hosts the inaugural Forbes 30/50 summit. The event coincides with International Women’s Day and is aimed at bringing women together to exchange experiences, knowledge and ideas.
Speaking to The National, Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, said that “Abu Dhabi is the perfect location for hosting this summit particularly this year, as the UAE just celebrated a huge milestone, which is the 50th year jubilee of the country, and soon we will celebrate the closure of a major event, Expo 2020”.
She said the event “is quite exclusive to a certain location in this globe and for it to move to Abu Dhabi will add a new layer of perspective”.
Over the past decade, the Forbes 30 Under 30 has become an important honour for young entrepreneurs and leaders. The recently introduced 50 Over 50 puts the spotlight on women in leadership roles who Forbes says are "shattering age and gender norms across every sector of business, politics, the sciences and society".
Ms Al Kaabi stressed that “as women, whether from Japan or Abu Dhabi or London, the moment we sit on one table, we always have connected conversations, no matter what and it is that type of connection that inspires me”.
One of the elements of this forum that Ms Al Kaabi was keen to highlight was the longevity of its results. While this week’s event is the first 30/50 Summit, Abu Dhabi will be hosting the annual summit for three consecutive years.
Ms Al Kaabi expressed her hope that those coming to the UAE for the first time to attend the summit will learn while here, “and to dismiss any misconceptions … [showing the participants] that there is no superiority depending on where someone is coming from”.
On International Women’s Day, Mrs Al Kaabi said, “it is a day that men should celebrate as well … different sectors should celebrate it … but it is always a call for development and progress”.
“Here in the UAE, from day one, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, till today, has always been advocating for empowering women, no matter where they come from," she said.
"And for her, it started with the importance of education, working, contributing to society as a mother, as a government individual, as a private sector employee ― she has always been the one encouraging women to play a role, whatever that role may be”.
“I hope this inspires others”.
One of the highlights of the three-day event is a “day of service” at Zayed University, where Ms Al Kaabi is president.
“We believe in continuity and we wanted to make sure that this is an event that, while being by invitation only, contributes to others,” said Ms Al Kaabi.
“It is crucial to inspire young people, to inspire individuals, to demolish [mental] walls around universities and bring in others to learn.”
The 30/50 meeting is happening as the UAE eases some of the restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
And Ms Al Kaabi said she is "super excited” to be having a meeting like this in person.
“We need this connection, direct touch … emotional intelligence is something very precious and it cannot transmit out of a screen,” she said.
“The timing is great, the time is perfect. We are lucky and blessed to have a system ahead of the game.
"We are working, going ahead of the game. We celebrated Expo, our jubilee, which is a challenge in the midst of a pandemic, but we did it”.
Among the highlights of the event, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be giving a keynote address, in addition to receiving a lifetime achievement award from Forbes.
“She is familiar with the region and what the world is going through and I think it will be special for her to get it in a place where were sees the conversations enriched because of the individuals at this event”.
Mrs Clinton, who was initially expected to attend in person, will be participating online.
Forbes has said this is due to the developments in Ukraine and “due to the nature of what [she does]”.
Mrs Clinton will however carry out a number of virtual mentoring sessions with a number of participants.