The official programme launch event, named ‘Forces of Inspiration’, brought together a group of high-achieving women from across the region – the ‘Founding Pioneers’ – at The Opus in Business Bay, Dubai, to meet and inspire young students. The all-female event consisted of inspirational panel talks, a stimulating gallery exhibition and the official launch of the exclusive mentoring programme – this global initiative is part of Bentley’s Women In Automotive programme, which aims to employ 30% diverse candidates in management by 2025.
The five Founding Pioneers, who pledged their commitment to the Extraordinary Women initiative are:
- Amna Habtoor – an entrepreneur with a background in the luxury car industry who later followed her passion and trained as a perfumier
- Alanoud Alhashmi, a member of the Young Arab Leaders and CEO of The Futurist Company, which aims to contribute to the UAE’s advancement as a hub of the latest technologies
- Reem Al Marzouqi, an engineer and the first citizen of the UAE to be granted a patent in the United States of America for designing a car that can be driven without hands
- Amna Al Hashemi, the UAE’s First Female Chef Patron and the founder of the popular Mitts & Trays, and a contributor to the UAE’s surge of women workers in the culinary world
- Eman Ali Al Shorafa, COO Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women & Children – the youngest female Emirati COOs in the UAE’s healthcare sector
The Pioneers were joined in the panel discussions by Hind Al Rabaeesi, the UAE’s first female sports photographer, and founder of HND Studio, and Dr Vian Ahmed, Professor in Industrial Engineering at American Univeristy of Sharjah (AUS). Bentley is partnering with AUS, along with Heriot-Watt University, in this initiative. The panel talks, where the Pioneers and Dr Vian shared stories and insights about their professional journeys, were attended by a group of female students from the two universities, who were also able to question the speakers about their experiences in more detail.
The students will now have the chance to apply to take part in an exclusive mentoring programme, with the opportunity to connect with the Pioneers, the university faculties and senior members of the Bentley leadership team. Four specially selected students will later travel to Bentley’s Crewe headquarters in the UK for a one-week visit where they will learn more about Bentley’s diversity and inclusion ambitions and gain valuable career advice, while seeing how Bentley engages with its female talent in what is traditionally a male-focussed business. This intiative will take an annual format, and the students will return to be involved in mentoring the next generation of students. Such is to be the legacy of these Extraordinary Women.
The initiative from Bentley champions female empowerment in the region – currently Emirati women make up 70% of all UAE university graduates yet, according to data from the UAE’s Gender Balance Council, while women constitute around two thirds of public sector workers, only 30% are in leadership positions. The initiative brings together some of the UAE’s most ‘Extraordinary Women’ from across a range of disciplines to join forces and use their experience, learning and passion to inspire the next generation of female professionals.
Bentley will work with the Founding Pioneers in the UAE, as well as the partnering Universities; American University of Sharjah and Heriot-Watt University, to provide inspiration and mentorship.
The mentorship programme was officially launched by Jo O’Brien, Head of Sustainable Communications at Bentley Motors: “Today was an incredibly uplifting experience – listening to these women tell their stories was truly inspiring. The purpose of the event was to launch our mentoring programme, which will provide a very valuable experience for the students that are chosen to take part. Today was incredibly important as we start to build a legacy to benefit the future female leaders of their fields.”