By Ed Attwood
To say that the release of our ‘Power 500’ list last week caused some controversy would be an understatement
To say that the release of our ‘Power 500’ list last week caused some controversy would be an understatement. Within an hour of the list publication on the arabianbusiness.com website, the hashtag #Power500 started trending in the UAE.
While many entries were delighted with their placings, many more were keen to point out that we had put people either too low, or too high, or even not included them at all.
But that, I think, misses the point of the list. While many may disagree with the placings, the rankings as a whole give an extraordinary view of the diversity of Arab achievement throughout the planet.
And never has that been more obvious than on last Monday evening, when many of the entries on our list attended an event to mark its launch at the Pavilion in Downtown Dubai. They came from all over the Arab world — from Doha to Kuwait City, from Nablus to Jeddah, and from Beirut to Amman.
Over 400 people attended the star-studded event, which also took the opportunity to pay tribute to five of the world’s most inspiring Arabs.
Among those who picked up awards were Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar, the UAE’s Minister for Foreign Trade, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, and the director general of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department, Major General Mohammed Al Marri.
These are all big names, of course. But one of the key points about our list is highlighting some of the relatively unsung heroes of the Arab world. That’s why we placed Reem Asaad in third place on the list this year. Asaad has already played a hugely important role in helping to solve one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest problems — that of unemployment.
The issue was highlighted last year by King Abdullah’s vast $130bn social spending packages, which targeted infrastructure, housing — and the ticking time bomb of finding gainful employment for a young and exploding population.
In particular, the kingdom needs desperately to find jobs for the female population. Roughly 90 percent of all employed Saudi women work in the public sector.
Asaad’s campaign began after a visit to a lingerie store, where she was told by a male employee that she could neither open any boxes of products sold by the store, nor try them on in-house. What began as a consumer rights issue became a fight to ensure that only women worked in lingerie stores in the kingdom. Last July, King Abdullah himself issued a directive banning men from working in lingerie shops, a move that instantly created 44,000 jobs for women in the private sector.
Needless to say, Asaad has no plans to stop there. Next up on her to-do list is a campaign to ensure that childcare facilities are put in place in private-sector companies.
As a working mother of three, she knows all too well how tough it can be juggling parenthood with a busy job. If that campaign goes as planned, you can expect her to remain in her current lofty position in the Power List when we publish the next version in 2013.
Speaking of which - preparations for next year’s list are about to get under way. As ever, we don’t claim to be infallible. Please feel free to email me your thoughts on this year’s version, and I will ensure that we take them into consideration for 2013.
Ed Attwood is the Editorial Director of Arabian Business.
If a few disagreed with the list, that is normal as you cannot please everybody. However, if many disagreed with the list (as the article says) then the list is definitely flawed.
Reem Assad's determination to give females vocational training for female-specific work roles shows us, yet again, how the tip of the iceberg is underpinned with pragmatic, practical, and above all simple good sense. Well done, Reem. Fiona H and Naomi Mc 'down under' are shouting out for you!