The Arab Institute for Women

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Panel Discussion: Women’s Leadership in Challenging Environments

On December 9, 2022, as part of the Women Diplomacy in Beirut Series, The Arab Institute for Women (AiW) at the Lebanese American University (LAU), in partnership with the British Embassy-Beirut, hosted a panel titled “Women’s Leadership in Challenging Environments” to discuss the role of Lebanese women as leading figures in their respective fields.

In an opening statement, Director of The AiW, Ms. Myriam Sfeir, welcomed the attendees, introduced the honorary guest (Dr. Elise Salem: Vice President for Student Development & Enrollment Management at LAU), the guest speakers (Reem Al Atrouni: Head of Corporate Services, British Embassy Beirut, Lea Baroudi: Co-founder and Director of March Lebanon, Rachel Dore-Weeks: Representative of UN Women in Lebanon, and Melanie Huaensten: UNDP Resident-Representative in Lebanon), and the facilitators (Ambassador Abir Ali: Protocol Director-Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Alyson King: Deputy Head of Mission-British Embassy Beirut). Then, through a brief overview, Ms. Sfeir presented some success stories of women in leadership positions and emphasized the need to vitalize women’s significant participation in all realms. Finally, Dr. Salem welcomed everyone to LAU and reiterated the university’s long-standing commitment to supporting women’s rights and gender equality.

The panelists discussed, from a gendered perspective and through a reflection of personal experiences, the key role of women in leadership positions. First, Ms. King explained the persisting norms and traditions which continue to restrict women’s active role in leadership. As she argued, although women are equipped with leadership skills and are ready to lead, the prevailing stereotypes continue to highly limit women’s participation. Then, Ms. Dore-Weeks reflected on the challenges which women leaders, like herself, usually face, and provided few recommendations to overcome possible struggles. As she confirmed, to become a successful and proactive leader, it is important to work within an inclusive, collaborative, and hard-working team. Following the two interventions, Ms. Baroudi shared her challenging journey to leadership. Based on her professional expertise, she explained how significant change, inclusive governance, and effective teamwork can only be fully realized through a complete recognition of women’s role and via collaboration between women and men allies.

Next, Ms. Haunesten highlighted her personal experience in leadership in war zones and conflicts. Her experience, as a peacemaker in a turbulent landscape, and that of other women in challenging environments, she explained, displays women’s ability to engage in vigorous roles in different contexts and circumstances. Finally, Ms. Al Atrouni confirmed women’s nonnegotiable ability to become successful leaders. She indeed emphasized the importance of providing women with the required opportunities to produce positive change and impact.

The panel discussion concluded with a short Q&A session.