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Empowering women: How Tahaluf inspires inclusion

In honour of International Women’s Day, we asked five women at Tahaluf about their experiences of inclusivity within the team, and at all our events. Here’s what they told us.

Empowering women: How Tahaluf inspires inclusion

International Women’s Day 2024 is on 8 March, and its campaign theme is ‘Inspire Inclusion’. This year’s celebration urges the world to invest in women – because when we do that, we can drive progress and stability for our businesses, societies, economies, and geo-political relationships. 

Tahaluf is proud to get behind this message. In fact, we’re already very much behind it – not just in words, but in actions. 

Women account for about 50% of our team members, including senior leadership positions. And we’re dedicated to pushing inclusion in the events we create; through our content, our speaker lineups, and amplifying women’s voices across industries. 

We know it’d be impossible for our events to inspire inclusion if we didn’t do that within our internal teams first. So, over to them: we asked five women to share their experiences of working at Tahaluf. 

Balance is the norm

Annabelle Mander (Senior Vice President) said:

“I had this moment of realisation about our gender balance when I was doing something totally different – I think arranging visas for our team. It hit me that half of our team members are women, which is still amazing to me.” 

“When I started here in 2021, it was just me,” she added, “and now we’re a team of more than 90 people.” 

But this balance between men and women hasn’t come about because of an inclusivity tick-box exercise; Annabelle said it “happened naturally because the people we hired from the start believed in including women, and empowering them, they made it a part of their core values. We really try to have a diverse company culture, and you can see that in the mix of people we have – different backgrounds, ages, levels of experience, and genders.” 

Inclusivity is reflected not just in high-level decision-making, but in the day-to-day moments that build Tahaluf’s company culture. Maha Alazman (Marketing Manager) said, 

“Honestly I feel that we’re all equals in Tahaluf, I can see and feel that in our everyday interactions, I’ve never once felt that I was excluded or not part of a conversation. We have women in every department, at all levels, and that shows everyone that we really are in a company that is inclusive of all.”

And for Emily Greenwood (Digital Marketing Manager), the experience of working in a genuinely inclusive and equitable culture is a breath of fresh air. “I’ve worked in a number of marketing agencies in the UK,” she said, “and at each one of them I experienced some form of gender inequality.” 

“Whether that was an assumption to be the note taker or coffee maker, the person who’s asked to greet clients at the door, or having to be accompanied onto client meetings by an older male who had nothing to do with the account, purely to be ‘taken more seriously’ by the client. It became the norm.” 

“I can confidently say I have never experienced anything like this at Tahaluf, and I have only actually recognised this truly right now by writing this answer, as the team is that seamlessly inclusive. We have incredible, powerful, yet empathetic female leaders on our team, who do a wonderful job at making sure there are no elements of exclusivity when it comes to gender within our company culture. This is echoed by the equally incredible male leaders and colleagues, who show nothing but respect and admiration towards their female colleagues.” 

This adds up to a company ecosystem that values and celebrates competency and hard work.

Promotions are given to the people who’ll be best at the job – not handed out based on pre-existing biases. 

“It feels empowering and it builds confidence to know that the value, praise and recognition I receive is purely based on merit, rather than societal privileges,” Emily said; “It’s a feeling that all women should feel every day.”

Empowerment really means something at Tahaluf

In a world where the word ‘empowerment’ is often an empty sentiment, Basma Dawwas (Content Director at Tahaluf) emphasised that Tahaluf really puts energy behind the promise of agency, decision-making power, and growth potential for women. 

“Reflecting on my time at Tahaluf, I've never felt more empowered as a woman than I do now. Being part of the senior management team and a mother of three, Tahaluf has been instrumental in fostering a sense of empowerment that goes beyond mere words — it's a genuine commitment.” 

What does that look like in practice? Women who have the confidence to share their ideas and truly contribute their talent to build a robust business. 

Women in the senior management team drive inclusion across the company

“I’ve been setting up a new division over the last few months,” said Rachel Sturgess (Group Director), “so opportunities and development of female colleagues has come up a lot in conversations with potential hires. It’s always been an easy question for me to answer and subsequently I’ve given a lot of thought as to why.” 

“I think it’s because inclusivity is so ingrained in the company culture, half of our colleagues are women, half of our senior management team are also women, and what's remarkable is the absence of any need to assert inclusivity as it’s there already in our everyday interactions.”

“I'm really proud when I think about how we do things at Tahaluf,” Annabelle said. “Half of our Tahaluf SMT are women, and when I look at the women I work with every day, I feel proud. These women are people I respect and value. They're hardworking, smart, and really good at what they do. I’m happy to work alongside them every day.”

Our events strive to elevate diverse content, speakers, and attendees at all events

The high percentage of gender-diverse speakers and content creators at Tahaluf events isn’t a coincidence – it’s something the company works hard to accomplish. Maha shared that in all event planning meetings and presentations she’s worked on, “our management team always made sure that we include women in everything.” 

For example, if a team is developing a speakers list for an event, they have to ensure that a significant number of those speakers are women – as well as a good balance between local and international speakers. 

Aiming for a diverse representation, Basma said, means that female speakers are not only invited to Tahaluf events, but also elevated through event content tracks both online and live at events.

And “Tahaluf is also gearing up to cater to industries such as beauty, predominantly serving women,” she noted, “by bringing in the globally renowned CosmoProf event to Saudi Arabia. This event will empower women entrepreneurs and professionals by offering networking opportunities, educational resources, and access to global markets.”

On the flipside, in industries where women are often underrepresented, Tahaluf works to provide dedicated platforms to celebrate female leaders and enable networking between women in those sectors. 

For example, Rachel said, “At Cityscape Global earlier this year we ran Cityscape WIRE sessions which were dedicated to advancing women in the real estate sector, through sessions, workshops and community get togethers we celebrated female leaders in this sector and created a platform for meaningful connections.” 

Emily added: “I think there is a perception, especially in Saudi Arabia, that tech industries must all be male-dominated. It’s clear from the content at our events and their audience that this is simply not the case. At Black Hat MEA for example, a cybersecurity event held in Riyadh, the genders on our speaking panel and attending audience were pretty much split down the middle.”

“We prioritise showcasing both men and women in equal measures in our marketing and production efforts for our events, regardless of the industry. If an event hosting the biggest names in the respective industries is openly promoting an equal gender split and powerful men and women that will be attending and leading the future trends and innovations in the industry, it will open up the minds and doors for anyone of any gender wanting to get involved in the industry in the future.”

“And the feedback we receive at the events from our speakers and attendees shows that it’s working, and we are in fact, inspiring inclusion.”

“We keep diversity in mind in everything we do,” Annabelle agreed, “like in terms of gender, background, sector, experience, and so on. At Tahaluf, our events give women a chance to share their expertise and be heard. You can see this at all our events.” 

And cooperation and collaboration enable careers to thrive

Reflecting on how she feels about the women in Tahaluf’s workforce, Annabelle said:

“I want them to succeed, move up, and do well, and I know they want the same for me. It's not just about having talented women in the business; it’s also about support from everyone else, men and women alike. Our CEO is big on promoting us as individuals and values what we bring to the table. It's great to be in a place where you're fully supported by your team, where there aren't any big egos, just a supportive environment where women are encouraged to do their best and given the flexibility and support to do so.”

For Maha, “It means the world to me, knowing that I can give my all and trust that I’ll be given an equal chance like everyone regardless of gender. In Tahaluf I know that we’re all treated equally and fairly. When one feels that they’re supported, appreciated and trusted, they’re bound to accomplish greatness.”

And Rachel added:
“I’m inspired daily by the amazing women I work with; however, gender rarely crosses my mind as opportunities are given based on merit. Our team is great at celebrating success, and our company culture is committed to fairness and transparency. It’s actually one of the things I love most about this job, being part of a team where every individual not only has the chance to succeed but enjoys the full support of their colleagues as they do so.” 

Annabelle is passionate about ensuring that women are given the resources and flexibility they need to establish their careers without having to give up on the rest of their lives. “For me, inspiring inclusion is personal,” she said. “It’s about making Tahaluf a place where women can succeed no matter what else is going on in their lives. If they need to leave early, start late, or miss a day for their children or anything else, we’ve got their back.”

“We want to be inclusive to all women, and that really requires us to be extremely flexible in our approach and we try to create an environment that provides all with the opportunity to succeed, and that can look different for all individuals.”

And as well as flexibility, kindness and empathy are crucial building blocks for a truly inclusive environment.
Annabelle noted that “kindness might not always seem important in business, but it's a big deal for us at Tahaluf. We hire kind, hardworking people because we know skills can be learned with the right guidance. This approach makes our workplace a happy place.”

“To me, inspire and include means making a safe space where everyone on the team can speak up and share ideas. This is a big reason why Tahaluf is doing so well and being innovative. It's all about creating an environment where women are respected, pushed forward, promoted, and given chances to grow, and we couldn’t do it without the support and backing from our male colleagues and teammates.”

For Basma, the theme of ‘inspire inclusion’ for International Women’s Day “underscores the importance of fostering a culture where every individual feels valued and empowered, regardless of gender, background, or identity. It involves championing diversity, breaking down barriers, and creating opportunities for all voices to be heard and celebrated.”

“I strongly believe that diversity leads to innovation, and I actively incorporate this belief into my hiring practices and team-building efforts. This approach not only promotes creativity but also creates a more equitable and enriching workplace for all.” 

All of that said, it’s important to remember that International Women’s Day exists because, as Emily put it: “there’s still a lot of work to do.” 

“To me, ‘inspire inclusion’ means to not just stand for women, but for all underrepresented communities. Everyone has a responsibility to reach out, listen, learn from each other, and change ingrained perceptions and behaviour.” 

“We can then look forward to a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued, regardless of their biology, beliefs, physical features and societal prejudice.”