Conference focused on women leaders attracts worldwide audience.

Three members of the Abu Dhabi Businesswomen Council with university
representatives: Shafika Al Ameri, director; College Executive Dean Joyce J. Elam;
Susan Webster; Amanda Bullough; Carmen Algeciras; Rawda Al Mutawa,
chairperson; Fatima Obaid Al-Jaber, deputy chairman; and Deanna Salpietra

A four-woman delegation from the College of Business Administration recently attended the “Women as Global Leaders” conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Executive Dean Joyce J. Elam; Carmen Algeciras, director of the college’s USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program; Deanna Salpietra, research coordinator, Knight Ridder Center for Excellence in Management, and Amanda Bullough, a PhD student and adjunct professor who teaches an online course on entrepreneurship, represented the college. Susan Webster, director, intellectual property management and resource development, who presented at the inaugural event last year and met the conference’s director, was the fifth member of the Florida International University contingent. Delegates from 87 countries—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—met at Zayed University for the three-day event, the theme of which was “Communities in Transition.”

“Zayed University was founded in 1997 to prepare the young women of the United Arab Emirates to be responsible, globally-aware leaders in their society,” Elam said. “The event was held in a truly magnificent setting at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, where we had the opportunity to listen to a group of internationally-renowned women leaders, including Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland; Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, Queen of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; and Cherie Booth, noted British attorney, human rights advocate, and wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.”

The group interacted with students from Zayed University, appointed and elected government officials from the region, leaders from a variety of non-government organizations (NGOs), and academics from around the world.

“We left the conference much inspired, with a greater understanding of the Gulf region and the opportunities and challenges for its women as they assume a more prominent role in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region,” Elam said.

The college’s representatives spent three additional days meeting with local NGOs and university leaders in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi to discuss the design of a program to address the needs of women and businesses in the local communities in the region. Their six-day stay also provided an excellent opportunity to get the college’s name more widely known in the Middle East.

“We interacted with prominent women leaders, established worldwide relationships, shared experiences, and learned from others,” said Salpietra. “We considered it a research trip to help establish contacts with possible partners and to get ideas about the projects for which the local academic and business communities need most help.”

After their networking and data collection efforts, the college’s representatives returned home to formulate a plan for a program that will focus on the cultivation of women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship and other leadership initiatives among faculty and students from the UAE and beyond.

“We plan to create outreach programs that address the economic and social needs of all Middle Eastern women, not just those in the UAE,” Salpietra said. “What we devise might take the form of joint programs or professional development offerings.”

Once the specifics take shape, Salpietra and Algeciras plan to apply for funding from the U.S. Department of State, Office of Middle East Partnership Initiatives grants program.

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