Machaille Hassan Al-Naimi, President of Community Development, Qatar Foundation, speaks about the organization’s role in empowering women to be “community leaders” – and why social innovation is vital to equality.
Reflecting its logo, I often describe Qatar Foundation as the lungs from which a developing country and region such as Qatar and the Middle East breathes from; the center for innovation in education, research, and community development, for which the seeds were embedded 25 years ago by QF’s Chairperson, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. As one of QF’s first students, at Qatar Academy, I fondly remember Her Highness participating in our school assemblies, inspiring and reassuring us that we are the ”future” of this country; an unequivocal assertion that has stood the test of time.
Today, at a student level, 63 percent of QF’s student body in higher education are female, with half of our engineering students at Texas A&M University at Qatar, and almost 60 percent of our medical students at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar and our students at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar being women; a female representation that is higher than that of our main campus partners. And, at an organizational level, 40 percent of our leadership is female. These are notable statistics that convey QF’s mission: empowerment through agency. But the work doesn’t stop here.
We fundamentally believe women must play a central role in society to ensure the long-term development of our nation and region
We fundamentally believe women must play a central role in society to ensure the long-term development of our nation and region. We recognize that women and men are created different and proudly embrace these differences to service the varying needs that complement one another in order to advance our community. Making up half of our world’s population, women must be given equal opportunities for communities to utilize their contributions.
We are truly proud that the percentage of women in Qatar who are in employment – almost 57 percent – is above the global average, and will surely continue to rise
We are truly proud that the percentage of women in Qatar who are in employment – almost 57 percent – is above the global average, and will surely continue to rise as we provide more opportunities for women in university enrollment, the workplace, and entrepreneurship. Being a community leader as a woman can take varied forms: being an active member of, and contributing to, society; motherhood, by raising a conscious, able future generation; being a CEO, and managing and growing a healthy organization; becoming an entrepreneur and building and improving on innovations. All of these and more require three common tools: education, skills and determination.
When I graduated from high school and decided to pursue a career in law, there were limited options locally for me, so I opted to travel abroad and was fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so. Today, with the establishment of QF, local and regional women do not have this obstacle. Instead, they have the opportunity to obtain a world-class degree locally.
Witnessing the pace of innovation in QF, from being a student to being part of its leadership, I can only personally conclude that, history, like innovation, is an evolutionary process
Often, people ask: is history the product of a few great women and men, a few great battles, a few great inventions, or is it an inevitable and evolved process? Witnessing the pace of innovation in QF, from being a student to being part of its leadership, I can only personally conclude that, history, like innovation, is an evolutionary process. It’s an iterative process of thinkers, leaders, and communities iterating and building on previous works and experiences. As such, with QF being a vehicle for rapid development in the region, we recognize the importance of dissecting, experimenting, and building off our lessons, successes, and inventions to innovate. And our women have helped to play a pivotal role in this – reflected, not least, in the fact that almost 40 percent of researchers at QF are female.
QF recognizes that achieving women’s empowerment requires social innovation, and we will continue to dismantle structural inequalities that hinder opportunities for women
Education City – the heart of our QF community – is a physical and digital city that provides women and men with opportunities to thrive, families to connect, and youth to exercise purpose and meaning in their daily lives. Education City truly is a melting pot of ideas – from sustainability, to culture, to sports, and beyond – but, more importantly, it is a test-bed for these ideas to metamorphose into solutions to our most pressing challenges. It is a place where we promote ethical values because we consider them the building blocks of any development, they anchor our society and provide maxims for the way that we, as QF community members, should govern ourselves.
Unlocking human potential is at the core of what we do; it is our ethos and our mantra. QF recognizes that achieving women’s empowerment requires social innovation, and we will continue to dismantle structural inequalities that hinder opportunities for women in the community, the workplace, and the marketplace.