Event Report: 2014 Australian Arab Businesswomen’s Forum
Convened by the Australian Businesswomen’s Forum (ABF) in partnership with Women Chiefs of Enterprise International (WCEI), the second Australian Arab Businesswomen’s Forum took place at the iconic Sir Stamford Circular Quay, Sydney on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 March, 2014.
The program began with a dinner on the evening of Thursday 6 March, which enabled guests to network and get to know each other against the backdrop of the exquisite Elizabeth Room of the Sir Stamford Circular Quay on the evening of Thursday 6 March.
Ms Luisa Pastrello, General Manager of Etihad Airways, AABF’s Principal Airline Sponsor welcomed guests and spoke about Etihad’s work in supporting Arab community initiatives in Australia, and the professional development of women within Etihad’s international operations.
Dr Muhadditha Al Hashimi, Director of the Higher Colleges of Technology from the United Arab Emirates then gave an enlightening presentation on the changing role of women across business, government and society in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). House of Fraser generously gifted all attendees with a set of sterling silver earrings, and one lucky overseas delegate, Ms Banu Akbez, Deputy Chairwoman and CEO of BPW Middle East Company won a Kailis Shackles Bracelet featuring an Australian South Sea pearl.
The Forum opened on the morning of Friday 7 March with an address by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services. Senator Fierravanti-Wells welcomed delegates on behalf of the Australian Government, and spoke about Australia’s favourable business environment and the trade and investment opportunities it will seek to advance as chair of the G20 Summit in Brisbane this year.
Her Excellency Sheikha Dr Hind Al Qassimi, member of the royal family of Sharjah Emirate, and Chairwoman of BPW Emirates Club and BPW Middle East Company then gave an opening address, focusing on the growth of BPW Emirates Club as a national women’s initiative in the UAE.
ABF was pleased to welcome several members of the diplomatic corps to the Forum, including His Excellency Mr Nabil bin Mohammed Al Saleh, Saudi Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Izzat Abdulhadi, Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia and New Zealand and Mr Terry Mullane, Honourary Consul-General of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Mr Talal Yassine OAM, Chairman of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations and Managing Director of Crescent Wealth then opened the Trade, Investment and Finance session with a presentation on commercial opportunities between Australia and the Arab world, with particular reference to the field of Islamic finance.
Ms Khlood Aldukheil, Saudi Arabia’s first and only Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Founding Partner of MKD Financial and Business Advisory spoke about Saudi women in the financial services sector, and her own journey to success in business.
Ms Julie Elliott, Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Sydney then talked about the trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab world from a banker’s perspective.
Mrs Khalida Azbane, General Manager of Moroccan international cosmetics company Azbane Group spoke about the challenges of running a family business and outlined the story of the Laboratoires Azbane.
Lastly, Ms Dina Shoman, Consultant and Advisor with Oasis One for Training from Jordan gave an inspiring talk on the particular demographics of the Middle East and North African region, and the role entrepreneurship can play in addressing social and employment needs.
Dr Muhadditha Al Hashimi, Director of the United Arab Emirates Higher Colleges of Technology opened the Health Session with a presentation on opportunities in the health sector in the UAE. Annette Owttrim, General Manager Business Development from Aspen Medical told the audience about the company’s journey to creating a market in the Middle East health sector, and the challenges and successes they have experienced in the region. Professor Kathryn Refshauge, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney also spoke about the university’s health research and development in the Middle East, and opportunities for collaboration between Australian companies and their Arab counterparts.
Mrs Caroline Montagu, the Countess of Sandwich and Middle East business journalist gave a presentation after lunch on Saudi business women: challenges and opportunities. Lady Montagu gave an overview of Saudi Arabia, and highlighted the stories of several prominent Saudi women.
Mr John King OAM, Chairman of the Australian Tourism Export Council spoke about the importance of viewing the visitor economy as being interdependent with all other industries, and related his experiences working in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region throughout his extensive career in the tourism industry.
Ms Helen Zimmerman, Group General Manager – Government and Stakeholder Relations, Navitas spoke on Education in a Connected World, and the opportunities for Australian education providers to form partnerships in the Middle East.
Lastly, Dr Wendy Lapointe, Equine Veterinarian, Provincial Trainer and Manager of Muskoka Farm in the Hunter Valley spoke about the achievements of women in the international racing and training industry, with particular focus on the Arab world.
Dearin & Associates would like to thank all attendees, speakers and sponsors for their contribution to AABF 2014, which was the first standalone event of its kind. Click here to view the full photo gallery from the Forum.
Author: Cynthia Dearin
Cynthia Dearin is an international business strategist, advisor, keynote speaker and author of Amazon best-seller Camels, Sheikhs and Billionaires: Your Guide to Business Culture in the Middle East and North Africa. With 18 years of international experience, as an Australian diplomat and management consultant, she is the Founder and Managing Director of Dearin Associates and the International Business Accelerator that helps clients to access opportunities in fast-growing international markets around the world.