'Men and women need to be allies': How this UAE platform is empowering women in workplace

The interactive e-learning platform is encouraging businesses to enhance female talent retention

By Noopur Bangar

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Published: Thu 2 May 2024, 5:55 PM

In the bustling streets of Istanbul back in 2009, Carla de la Vega's life took a transformative turn. A journalist and author, Carla had just published her first book, Honour Heels and Headscarves, chronicling the real-life stories of women in Istanbul. However, her joy was swiftly overshadowed when she encountered a disturbing photo montage online, depicting her bruised face with derogatory remarks labelling her as a prostitute. This shocking incident not only shook her confidence but ignited a profound realisation – the urgent need to empower herself and subsequently, other women.

Carla had a life-changing experience that led her on a path of self-discovery and promoting women's empowerment. Her research into areas like neuroscience and psychology revealed that most women grapple with self-doubt in their professional lives, with studies showing that three-quarters of women struggle with confidence issues in their careers.

Motivated by what she had gone through and equipped with insight, Carla co-founded Bepow Media, a media platform focused on helping women grow on a personal and professional level. Through Bepow Media, Carla and her colleagues made available tools, information, and an encouraging community to assist women in conquering difficulties and cultivating self-assurance.

However, Carla soon realised that empowering women wasn't enough. True progress required collaboration and inclusivity, including men in the conversation. Thus, her latest venture, International Women Empowerment Initiative (IWEI), was born. “Our Mission at IWEI is to unlock the untapped potential of women in the workplace, promote diversity and empower organisations to achieve better business results”.

Elaborating on how IWEI functions, Carla says that it empowers businesses to enhance female talent retention and engagement through a research-backed, bespoke, interactive e-learning platform aimed at boosting women's confidence and professional growth. The inclusive approach fosters a workplace where women thrive, driving business success while championing diversity and women's empowerment.

“There are so many studies that show that companies that have women in senior leadership positions out-earn those that don’t. For instance, Ernst & Young says there is a 6 per cent increase in profits in companies with gender diverse teams, and BCG also found that there’s a 38 per cent increase in innovation revenue when both genders are represented,” she says.

Unfortunately, many women drop off before they reach senior levels or do not perform to their fullest abilities due to a lack of confidence and work environments. IWEI takes a holistic approach, first helping women build their confidence so they can lead teams and participate at senior levels. Secondly, it helps companies and institutions to create environments where women can thrive, increasing organisational prosperity by harnessing the power of diversity.

IWEI is an e-learning platform with rich video lessons that contain valuable content from the latest studies from psychologists, neuroscientists, and experts. They also share stories of real-life women to inspire people. IWEI also helps create actionable takeaways with workbooks along with online and off-line interactions such as on-site conferences. This in turn helps to create a community that will support their journey.

She highlights the value of men's support, stating, "Men and women need to be allies. From my personal experience, some of my best mentors have all been men. They have helped me grow so much throughout my career”. Enrolling male associates could help women to grow into leaders of the future.

Through IWEI, Carla collaborates with like-minded individuals and organisations who share the goal of creating more opportunities for women to excel and advance in their careers. Two leading examples of individuals who have reached the highest levels in the corporate world are Peter Hoedemaker, the previous CEO of the German multinational group KAEFER, who currently serves on the board of directors of companies in various sectors including food, medical, construction, design and sustainability; and Salvatore Maisano, the former Global Executive of Nokia and Tata Communications, who is now a Senior Advisor to CEOs, boards, and infrastructure funds in the technology, media and telecom (TMT) industry, with over a decade of experience in the Middle East. Both are strongly dedicated to promoting inclusion and diversity at work.

As a member of the G100, she views her role as an opportunity to advance the global conversation on women's empowerment to new heights. Her position as an advisory member of this esteemed group of 100 global women leaders shows Carla's commitment and influence in building a more equitable world for everyone. With the launch of her newest endeavour, the International Women Empowerment Initiative (IWEI), in the Middle East, Carla strives to leverage the power of cooperation to catalyse positive change both locally and internationally. Being honoured as an ‘iconic woman creating a better world for all’ further extends her reach, enabling her to champion diversity and help shape a more inclusive society for future generations.

Carla’s whose goal is to cultivate women leaders of the future, states, “We boost their confidence and professional growth with our content that is well-researched, entertaining, and thoroughly backed by data to ensure that they receive information that is engaging, easy to understand and actionable”.

Carla stresses the significance of listening to what women have to say, comprehending their requirements, and working together across genders and cultures. Through her efforts, she aspires to connect groups, encourage understanding, and make a fairer world where all people, notwithstanding gender, can prosper.

The UAE is dedicated to empowering women and enabling them to realise their full potential. Carla’s initiative will further advance that goal. The UAE has one of the highest rates of women's participation in government cabinets globally, demonstrating the strong position attained by Emirati women. In this way, the UAE promotes political inclusion for all. Women make up 66 per cent of public sector employees, with 30 per cent in leadership roles and 15 per cent in technical and academic positions. Women represent 56 per cent of STEM field graduates, while 44.5 per cent of engineering undergraduates in the country are female — among the highest rates globally. Initiatives like IWEI can help drive more positive change in the Middle East.

Looking to the future, Carla sees IWEI making a real difference not just in the Middle East but also globally. She believes the special viewpoints and background of the region can spur positive change across the world. Carla de la Vega is a symbol of hope and strength, motivating others to work with her towards a more empowered tomorrow.


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