Where Is The Woman In The #ARABsmis?

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Do we need a women quota even in large-scale summits? In a time where every other day there is a new summit, council, workshop, talks and speeches about women’s role in the society, women equality in the jobs market, women equality in the society, etc; we are still unconsciously marginalizing women in everything until we receive a directive from the country’s leadership mandating a certain quota to fit the woman in. Do we need a women quota to be mandated on all award ceremonies in all fields from now on to ensure women are remembered?

Today was the first day of the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit; a great summit to celebrate the success stories across the world that happened solely because of social media, and to reward the success stories from the Arab region. Though I couldn’t attend it due to prior commitments and to the last minute confirmation email from summit’s organizers, I still ensured I follow the social media posts across the summit to be updated about what is happening.

I don’t think it hit me at all until I saw the group photo of all the winners in the awards segment of the summit. A group picture of about more than 30 winners, and only 3 or maybe 4 female amongst them! Only! This was like an instant slap. Is it really possible that from all the applicants in all different fields that were awarded, only 10% were female? So I looked for the judging committee, and no surprise there, it was formed of 3 men, and hence the potential unconscious bias may have happened.

ARABSMIS winners
Group Picture of the Winners

This naturally made me examine again the agenda of the summit, and it confirmed my suspicions. Excluding Ahlam AlShamsi from the list of speakers -for the obvious reasons that her out of proportion popularity demanded her presence and would have guaranteed a certain higher number of attendees- the only other two sessions that included women were a session about food, and a session about fashion. How fitting to the stereotype! Women can’t be considered in any other field?

ARABSmis Agenda_
The ARABsmis Agenda

Are there no women achievers in the social media scene who have transformed a business or another? Or led a social media platform? What about Arianna Huffington and how The Huffington Post utilized social media in a way that made news go viral in seconds and how they have depended on social media to create a movement in news making? Or Sheryl Sandberg who is currently the COO of Facebook and previously worked in Google before that? Or Angela Ahrendts, Ex CEO of Burberry to talk about the business models she’s created for pushing the brand on digital media and started catwalks exclusive to social media? Or Oprah Winfrey starting The Bookclub 2.0 in which the book discussions are solely happening on social media and how that bookclub drove millions of sales towards the books chosen every month? There are so many more examples of women driving business achievements through social media, yet the only women chosen were for the food and fashion panels only?!

Was it purposeful? Of course not. I believe whether we like it or not, we are wired to always look for male role models and achievers, that the scene of having a stage full of men doesn’t strike us as strange at all, although the societies across the world are most often than not formulated of more women than men. I believe that it takes conscious effort to realize that women may have been forgotten from the first list, and the reaction would be: let’s put extra effort to look for them and integrate them in it. Just like the women quota had to be mandated by the country’s leaderships across the world to force organizations to integrate women into the top management boards, perhaps such quota needs to be mandated on such large scale summits to ensure women aren’t forgotten in this picture. Because whether we like it or not, although women make up more than 50% of our population, we still forget to include them in such platforms.

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