The Recap: Achieving Women Forum 2018 Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women Forum, held at The Westin Dubai, Al Habtoor City, on May 10, discussed some of the key challenges and opportunities that the region presents for women entrepreneurs, and how they can be tackled.

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With a line-up of female leaders from the MENA business arena to share their expertise, the 2018 edition of Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women Forum, presented by du, brought together over 300 attendees at The Westin Dubai at Al Habtoor City on May 10, 2018 to discuss and debate some of the key challenges and opportunities the region presents for female professional and entrepreneurs.

The 2018 Achieving Women Forum, presented by du, was staged by Entrepreneur Middle East as a production by BNC Publishing, and was held with the support of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Dubai Startup Hub, Luxury Automotive Partner Maserati, Platinum Allies AJSM Investments and Azizi Developments, Gold Allies Lacasa Holding and Elabelz.com, and Knowledge Partner Skyline University College.

Fida Chaaban, Chief Communications Officer, KBW Investments.

Staged under the Entrepreneur Industry Intel banner, the 2018 Achieving Women Forum was moderated by Fida Chaaban, Chief Communications Officer, KBW Investments, and Entrepreneur Middle East's Editor in Chief, Aby Sam Thomas. Kicking off the event with his introductory remarks on the conference's objective of providing a platform for MENA's businesswomen to learn, network, and build relationships, Thomas brought to attention a change in format for this year's event- while remaining true to its ethos to create a dialogue around development of MENA's business women, the event also saw men participating in the conference this year along with women entrepreneurs.

Aby Sam Thomas, Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East.

Getting the conference started with her welcome note, Dr. Alia Al Serkal, Senior Director, Human Capital Development, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), noted that it was a wonderful time to be a woman in the UAE- a nation on the right path towards achieving gender inclusion. She added that at du, they take their commitment towards women's development seriously, with "three in ten" of their employees female, and 31% of these women also Emirati. "We are so lucky to be living in a country that champions women's rights," she said. "I urge women to take the opportunities they are offered with both hands and work hard to achieve their dreams- because it is possible."

Dr. Alia Al Serkal, Senior Director, Human Capital Development, EITC (du).

As for the other insights shared at the event, the first of the Talking Series, under the title Drivers Of Change: Transforming Businesses (And Mindsets) In The MENA, revolved around discovering how the region's SMEs and corporates are rebuilding themselves as workplaces suited for both men and women, in the wake of the #MeToo movement globally. The panelists included Dr. Alia Al Serkal, Senior Director, Human Capital Development, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), Ayla Bajwa, founder, Ampuz, and Senior Advisor to the United Nations Global Compact UAE Local Network, Laudy Lahdo, General Manager, Servcorp, and Founding Partner, REACH Mentoring, and Ruth Fletcher, VP of People, Careem, who discussed the ways women in leadership roles can help facilitate the creation of more such wholesome working environments- and what men can do to help.

From left to right: Entrepreneur Middle East Editor in Chief Aby Sam Thomas, Ruth Fletcher, VP of People, Careem, Laudy Lahdo, General Manager, Servcorp, and Founding Partner, REACH Mentoring, Dr. Alia Al Serkal, Senior Director, Human Capital Development, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), Ayla Bajwa, founder, Ampuz, and Senior Advisor to the United Nations Global Compact UAE Local Network, and KBW Investments CCO Fida Chaaban.

This was followed by the Voice of Entrepreneurship segment by Aparna Verma, founder and CEO, Scholars International Group, who, in an address, shared her own personal challenges, and instances of leaps of faith she'd taken, to emphasize on the significance of grit and perseverance required to navigate one's entrepreneurship journey.

Aparna Verma, founder and CEO, Scholars International Group.

The second panel discussion delved on why women are often more reluctant than men when it comes to advocating for themselves, and how MENA's women can get past this hurdle. Titled Hold Your Ground: Making A Deal Worth Your (And Your Enterprise's) While, the discourse was driven by panelists Dawn Metcalfe, founder, PDSi and author, The Hard Talk Handbook, Dunia Othman, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, mrUsta, and Product Manager, Dubai, Amira Rashad, founder and CEO, BulkWhiz, and Hiba Jaber, Lead Structural Engineer, Lacasa, who discussed ways to become better at negotiating for both your career and growth of your enterprise.

From left to right: Entrepreneur Middle East Editor in Chief Aby Sam Thomas, Hiba Jaber, Lead Structural Engineer, Lacasa, Dunia Othman, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, mrUsta, Amira Rashad, founder and CEO, BulkWhiz, Dawn Metcalfe, founder, PDSi and author, The Hard Talk Handbook, and KBW Investments CCO Fida Chaaban.

And finally, the third panel titled Pitching Pitfalls: A (Better) Game Plan To Fund Your Venture, discussed the common issues/challenges women-led enterprises face while fundraising, and also deliberated if having more women participation in the investors side can help turn things around for women entrepreneurs, especially in the MENA region. The panelists were Dana Horska, Chief Investment and Innovation Officer, AWOK.com, Sonia Gokhale, Partner, VentureSouq, Sophie Smith, co-founder and CEO, NabtaHealth, and Nadine Mezher, co-founder and CMO, Sarwa.

From left to right: Entrepreneur Middle East Editor in Chief Aby Sam Thomas, Dana Horska, Chief Investment and Innovation Officer, AWOK.com, Sophie Smith, co-founder and CEO, Nabta Health, Sonia Gokhale, Partner, VentureSouq, Nadine Mezher, co-founder and CMO, Sarwa, and KBW Investments CCO Fida Chaaban.

Much like previous editions of the conference, Entrepreneur Middle East's 2018 Achieving Women Forum also saw a lot of engagement on social media; you can check out the event insights on Twitter and Instagram by checking the hashtag #EntMEWomen.

Related: The Recap: Achieving Women Forum 2017

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