WIL to offer platform for women leaders

DUBAI — Sophie Le Ray, the charming French woman who lives in Dubai, always wanted to be a teacher. In a way, today, she is doing what she had always wanted to do.

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Published: Fri 29 Oct 2010, 11:23 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:45 AM

As CEO of naseba and the initiator of the Women in Leadership series concept, she is providing the right opportunities and the environment, through trainings and conferences, for people to learn in a comfortable atmosphere, as a teacher would like to do in her class.

Her company’s name, naseba, comes from a Japanese idiomatic expression: “When there is a will there is a way.” naseba can be translated into: “If you make it happen.”

Naseba produces, promotes and hosts business summits, professional training courses and business exhibitions targeting executive level attendees across multiple vertical industries. Each event is focused on re-education, networking and creating a ‘deal-flow’ platform for all participating organisations.

The company has organised over 350 events and played host to 52,000 executive delegates globally. Operating from four strategically located offices, naseba has on-the-ground presence in Bangalore, Cairo, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Monaco, Riyadh and Singapore.

WIL Forum

Sophie’s initiative, Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum, serves as a ‘club’ for women to network, to increase their confidence, to learn from each other’s experience, and to do business together.

WIL is a business networking and experiential knowledge-sharing platform for successful businesswomen. WIL supports women development and enhancement of their role in society and workplace.

Featuring exclusive and high profile forums, WIL engages women leaders representing diverse industries through key-note speeches, interactive discussions, networking sessions, educational workshops and recognise their achievements through award ceremonies. WIL works in partnership with leading media, associations and government authorities in the UAE.

The first WIL Forum was held in the Middle East in Dubai in October last year, and the second edition is being held at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi on November 23-24.

“It aims to bring women leaders from the business arena together to address issues arising from current economic conditions,” Sophie told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview in Dubai.

The summit will feature leaders’ panels, regulatory reform discussions, exclusive networking sessions and also present the opportunity to explore opportunities for growth between the Middle East and the international market, she explained.

The Abu Dhabi event will be followed by the groundbreaking Kingdom WIL Forum in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on December 7-8 this year.

Built on two themes, business entrepreneurship and family, which are central to Saudi business women, the forum will be a gathering of up to 150 aspiring business women who are working their way up the career ladder, focused on promoting leadership initiatives and enhancing skills for the advancement of the women community.

“The Saudi event has turned out to be the easiest to hold. It is a Saudi specific event that is Saudi oriented and deals with Saudi issues,” Sophie said.

Next year’s calendar includes WIL Forum Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February, and WIL Forum India in Mumbai in May.


About the factors that motivated her to organise the Women in Leadership Forum, Sophie said, “We are a business information company, our main objective is to facilitate business opportunities between corporations, individuals, and specially between western and emerging countries.”

“Along the years, we noticed that there was room for a high level summit for women in leadership positions - an event that would address their day to day issues, but mainly that would offer them the opportunity to do business – a bit like a gentlemen’s club.”

Sophie pointed out that the WIL Forum does not have the aim to empower women. It addresses women at the top of their game, and more junior executives who already have achieved an outstanding career, she explained.

“I do not think our delegates attend the event to be empowered, but to do business, to share experiences, and to gain more insights into excelling in business as a woman,” she added.

Sophie has a Masters degree in Ancient History and has a passion for ancient cultures and contemporary architecture. How did this background help her in her work at naseba?

“I believe in learning from the past to build the present and future. Sounds cheesy, but I strongly believe in it. I learned from my studies how to research and go deep into a theme, understand interaction in between cultures and trade history,” Sophie said. She uses it every day, in facilitating business between her clients and creating the ideal platform to do so.

Talking about her perspective over women empowerment, the position of women in the business world as well as more specifically, the Middle East, Sophie felt that there is a lot of room for improvement.

“But, this said, the world has already changed a lot in the past 30 years. It is not any longer unusual to see a woman piloting planes, engineering, being a prime minister or on the opposite side, for a man to be a nurse.”

“The Middle East is taking the exact same route, at different speed, depending on the country, but still it is moving forward,” she said.

What still remains to work on, is the GUILT women feel whenever they decide to conduct a successful career, Sophie pointed out.

She does not understand the whole concept of having to choose between two options. “Why can’t you be a decent parent and a successful businesswoman? Or the need for some women to suddenly eradicate all their femininity in the name of being a successful businesswomen,” she wondered.

“I am personally not an activist and believe that we are very different to men and that is good,” Sophie proudly said.

Sophie agreed that most of these forums have become a mere commercial activity exploiting the feminine gender’s soft nature and promising them power, but stressed that her WIL Forum is different.

“I agree with you and this is why our event is about LEADERSHIP, not empowerment. We are not trying to empower any one; our objective with this event is to host an ideal environment to do business, promote entrepreneurship and if along the way it inspires women at the beginning of their career to climb up, then we will be even more successful,” she said.


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