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Why the Gulf needs a new women’s network

Illustration of birds flying over a bright yellow sunset. Picture courtesy Pixabay/ Mohamed Hassan
Diana Wilde 13 April 2023
Just yesterday I sat with a group of very senior, high-achieving women for iftar. It filled me with so much pride, to hear them offer each other advice on new projects, to share tools they use at work and to generously give support.
But this is rare. It is lonely at the top: we know this. It is worse for women at the top.
Women do not tend to be lonely outside of work. Their lives bustle with busyness, family, children and friends. But in the office, once they climb the ladder they become an ‘other’, a rare senior woman.

Lacking companionship

On workdays, they can be left isolated, solitary and lacking companionship. They simply don’t know other women like themselves.
Over the past three years, Aurora50 has focused on helping women to grow their board careers by meeting male board directors. This is known as bridging the network gap.
But while our Pathway20 director accelerator did just that, it brought an unexpected, long-term success. It gave the women who joined and graduated someone to call and ask for a fresh perspective. It gave them a woman at the same stage of her career journey.

Networking at bottom of ‘to do’ list

They found so much value from meeting like-minded, ambitious women. One of the best compliments I ever heard after one of our workshops was, “I feel like I belong for the very first time”.
This is why we created Manarat – an invite-only club for women who have become non-executive and independent board directors.
Unfortunately, with all the extra home pressures we women face, we put networking at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.

Missing social capital

By the time women reach management, they’ve often missed out on building social capital with female peers.
I have been in the Gulf for 18 years. I have always worked in male-dominated industries and environments, from a venture-backed tech scale-up to a Fortune 500 agribusiness giant. .
I could see value in networking with other women, but I had never been able to find a women’s network that worked for me.

Rising together

Sure, there are networking groups out there for specialised industries, or for entrepreneurs. But there is simply nowhere to meet senior, corporate career women.
For women to be truly successful, they must be able to meet women like themselves. They need to find a home in which to connect, to find help and inspiration.
And we can see that women need to build their social capital early on, so they can rise together – and connected. Later in their career is the time that women most need their network, but have the least time to work on it.

A women’s collective for corporates

Aurora50 has a unique understanding of what it takes to reach the top echelons, thanks to Pathway20, our large-scale events and other services, such as Table Talks and our accelerator for internal management, AIM,
Now we are using this to launch our own women’s network, NOORA.
NOORA is a collective for corporates with two chapters:
  1. a lobby for first-time managers
  2. and a mezzanine for established managers (normally managers of managers).

A space for community

Corporate organisations can buy membership for a dozen – or dozens – of high-potential women in their ranks.
At NOORA, those women can meet other women, from other corporates. And these other women will be on both their wavelength and their level.
The women invited to join NOORA will have a space in which to:
  • consider their personal development
  • think about their career
  • find their community
  • rise up from within.

A new normal for women

The women we already work with are top-class. They thrive on being the best and having an impact. They have each other’s backs and they make rising talent feel welcome.
Imagine what a game-changer it would be to extend that beyond board level and C-suite. To have a regional women’s network where, as a career woman, you would always feel that you belong.
For women to be in that collective to feed each other business, to discuss the work-life juggle. To build the pipeline of women leaders for decades to come. And to go through it all together.
To create a new normal for women in the workplace – for women in power to never be lonely.
We hope you’ll join us on this journey.