Building on the success of its inaugural cohort, the Women Innovators Fellowship (WIn) will include Bahrain and the UAE, in addition to Saudi Arabia, as it continues to empower more women entrepreneurs from the Middle East 

Washington, D.C.—June 15, 2023 — The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East announced today the eighty-six recipients of its 2023 WIn Fellowships for Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain. The fellows will receive a year-long program of executive education, mentoring, and networking opportunities in collaboration with Georgetown McDonough School of Business and with the support of the United States embassies in the three target countries and PepsiCo.  

“We are thrilled to expand the program to women entrepreneurs in two more countries in addition to Saudi Arabia,” said Amjad Ahmad, the chairman of the empowerMe initiative at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “We received tremendous interest in this transformative journey, and we aim to continue growing the fellowship to more Middle Eastern and North African countries.”  

“At the Atlantic Council, we believe in the remarkable human capacity of the Arab world and that women, in particular, can have a substantial impact on their economies and societies. It’s important that policies and programs level the playing field for women to ensure that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Ahmad added. 

This year, the program received more than 229 applications, among which twenty-two fellows from Bahrain, thirty from UAE, and thirty-four from Saudi Arabia were selected, representing a wide range of industries, including technology and information, entertainment and creative services, healthcare, education, finance, and other service sectors. 

“The US mission to the UAE is proud to partner with the Atlantic Council to bring the empowerME WIn Fellowship to the UAE for the first time,” said Daleya Uddin, head of public affairs and outreach at the US Consulate General in Dubai, one of the program’s sponsors this year. “The Fellowship promotes women’s economic opportunities and gives women-owned businesses the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch and scale successful businesses.”  

“We are thrilled to support these inspiring leaders as they build business resilience and adaptability and contribute to the success of the UAE and the region’s economic development through sustainable innovation and creativity,” Uddin added. 

The WIn Fellowship was first launched by the empowerME Initiative in March 2022 to support women entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia in building leadership and executive capacity and scaling their startups to new heights in partnership with the US embassy in Saudi Arabia and PepsiCo.  

“By investing in these talented Saudi entrepreneurs, the US embassy is not only providing skills to help them grow and scale their businesses but also to promote, lead, and mentor the next generation of Saudi founders and innovators,” said Davida MacDonald, cultural attaché for the US embassy in Riyadh. “We are confident these WIn fellows will make connections with their American counterparts that will lead to future partnerships benefitting both countries.”  

“This is an extraordinary time to support female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.  Saudi women’s employment reached 37 percent by early 2023 – the highest rate in the country’s history.  Saudi women are also opening their own businesses at a rapid pace and now own 45 percent of all small and medium businesses in Saudi Arabia,” MacDonald added. 

The selected fellows will receive over fifteen hours of online executive education from the world-renowned Georgetown McDonough School of Business, in addition to two full days of workshops for twenty participants to come to the United States next April and attend the annual roadshow program.  

“We are living in such a dynamic time in the Kingdom, which is also having a positive ripple effect on the region at large,” said Wael Ismail, vice president of corporate affairs at PepsiCo AMESA, which is sponsoring the Saudi cohort for the second year in a row. “We hope this program plays a positive role in further strengthening local and regional exchange of knowledge, resources, and best practices that would be a facilitator for social, cultural, and economic development.”  

“Partnering with the Atlantic Council to sponsor the WIn Fellowship Program is a great opportunity to play our role in fulfilling our commitment to empowering Saudi women as part of our Tamakani flagship initiative, and more specifically entrepreneurs, to lead thriving lives and careers and to play an active role in contributing to the Saudi Vision 2030’s mandate in propelling the Kingdom’s economy to social prosperity,” Wael added. 

The participating women leaders will be paired with top business executives in their fields. The program is recruiting mentors, encompassing national and international business experts, leaders, and entrepreneurs. These mentors will provide one-on-one guidance, support, and advice to the fellows to promote their personal and professional growth.  

“The US embassy in Manama is proud to partner with Bahraini women entrepreneurs and the Atlantic Council on the WIn Fellowship,” said Linda McMullen, public affairs officer at the US embassy in Manama.  “This fellowship will support these talented women as they learn new techniques to grow and scale their businesses, build connections with their counterparts in the United States, and realize their aspirations.”  

“Bahrain and the United States have a distinguished history of economic cooperation and partnership that goes back nearly a century; this program is a new and exciting addition to that tradition,” McMullen added.  

The inaugural cohort was a great success and culminated in a graduation ceremony at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington, D.C., in April. The class of 2023 received an extensive program that allowed them to accelerate their leadership and executive skills. They were also exposed to US policymakers, academics, and the business community, to whom they provided a unique perspective on the challenges and prospects of women entrepreneurship in the MENA region.  

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