Path to COP28: Women in Finance Symposium

In-person, 7th March 2023, 14:00-16:00 (GST),
The Open Stage, DIFC Innovation Hub, Dubai.

In a fireside chat and interactive Q&A, our expert speakers discussed some of the challenges they have faced, how they overcame them and how finance can tackle gender equality going forward.

Our expert speakers:
  • Shared valuable pieces of advice they have received
  • Explored the practical ways that financial institutions are addressing gender equality
  • Discussed how to encourage women into the finance sector and into leadership roles.
Chair, Financial Services Culture Board and GEFI Global Steering Group

Dame Susan Rice

Head of Regional HR Region, Middle East and Africa, Munich Re (Group)

Muna Murad

Senior Vice President Business Excellence, Mastercard

Maria Paula Oliveira

Founding Partner, Mindshift Capital

Heather Henyon

Chair, Financial Services Culture Board and GEFI Global Steering Group

Dame Susan Rice

With a career that spans medical research, leadership roles in higher education and then banking, Dame Susan chairs the Global Steering Group of GEFI (Global Ethical Finance Initiative). She also chairs the boards of Scottish Water, Business Stream, North American Income Trust.

The first woman to head a UK or European clearing bank as Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland plc, she was also a director of the Bank of England, Senior Independent Director of both J Sainsbury’s plc and SSE plc and lay member of Court at Edinburgh University. She was founding chair of Scotland’s Fiscal Commission, the country’s official, independent economic and fiscal forecaster and recently became a non-executive director on the board of the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility.

Focused on the creation of long-term value in business and enterprise, she works with the UK’s Place-based Climate Action Network and previously led a business-focused collaboration on carbon reduction and a sustainable Scottish economy. A leading voice on ethics in finance, she chaired the Financial Services Culture Board and supported the Chartered Banker Institute by leading her industry to support the creation of professional standards for bankers. Susan also helped develop numerous social finance and impact investing entities in the US and the UK.

Alongside several honorary degrees and professional fellowships, Dame Susan is a Freeman of the City of London.

Head of Regional HR Region, Middle East and Africa, Munich Re (Group)

Muna Murad

Muna Murad, is an MA graduate HR Director (CHRO) and ICF Accredited Executive Coach with extensive HR experience in many different business environments and multinational organisations with exposure to working within the MENA region. She has played a major role in helping organisations to meet their business goals by implementing change programs, staffing and retention strategies, performance management, organisational restructuring, diversity and inclusion strategies and total reward systems.

Senior Vice President Business Excellence, Mastercard

Maria Paula Oliveira

Maria Paula Oliveira (MP) is the Senior Vice President, Business Excellence for Mastercard EEMEA (Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa). MP leads Strategy, & Pricing, Analytics, and Sales enablement functions, empowering the business to thrive across 80+ countries.

MP has worked in Latin America, Silicon Valley-USA, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East in senior leadership positions in corporations and startups across financial services, technology, and professional services. Passionate about all things innovation, she is particularly interested in how startups and corporations collaborate to create disruptive offerings.

Founding Partner, Mindshift Capital

Heather Henyon

Heather Henyon is Founding Partner of Mindshift Capital, a global venture fund that invests exclusively in early stage women-led technology companies. She is Founder of the Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN), the first and largest women’s angel group in the Middle East. An active venture investor with a passion for fintech, Heather has over 100 direct and fund investments in the US, Europe and Middle East. She started her career on Wall Street and has almost 20 years of experience in finance, technology and strategy in emerging markets including as founding CEO of Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Ltd.

Heather is a member of the Investment Committee of both US-based Next Wave Impact Fund and Cairo Angels Syndicate Fund and is a founding member and former Board and Investment Committee member of Dubai Angel Investors. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Sekem Holding Group in Egypt and is a Board Member of Little Thinking Minds, Wellbees, QiDZ, Localized and NeedsList. She was a member of the Cartier Women’s Initiative MENA Jury (2020) and has been nominated as “Investor of the Year” by Arabian Business in 2017 and 2016.

Originally from the US, she has lived in the Middle East for 15 years and speaks Arabic and French. Heather holds an MBA in Finance & Entrepreneurship from the Johnson School at Cornell University where she was a Park Leadership Fellow and a BA in Economics & Political Science from Oberlin College.

Summary

At the Symposium, Heather Henyon, founding partner of Mindshift Capital (a global women-run venture firm investing in various women-led tech companies) shared the revenue-focused, solution-oriented, and sustainable nature of the business under the Venture’s portfolio. Another initiative discussed that is designed to encourage females in the fintech scene was the female-focused accelerator programme in the DIFC FinTech Hive.  

GEFI’s Global Steering Group Chair, Dame Susan Rice, shared how her varied background and expertise has contributed to her success as a finance leader- highlighting finance as a route that can benefit from diversity of thought as it offers creative ways of doing finance. 

The importance of diversity within the workforce, particularly in leadership positions, was emphasized as the role of HR within organizations. Muna Murad emphasised how the success of the various initiatives adopted by Munich Re helped achieve an increase in the proportion of women in leadership positions across the organization. Among the HR initiatives was a conscious reflection on the organization’s talent groups, an active shortlisting of qualified female employees for promotions, and leadership development programs for women. Within the region, the organization also saw that hybrid working was welcomed by mothers, encouraging recruitment.  

The role financial institutions play in this discussion is also significant. From an investment perspective, KPIs were highlighted as a powerful tool adopted to demand more gender diversity from a business.

The link between sustainable development and diversity of thought within finance was also highlighted by Maria Paula Oliveira and others. Diversity offers innovative financial products and services that address particular issues affecting communities. In turn, there are also significant opportunities to encourage gender diversity within finance under a sustainability agenda as it expands the talent pool to environmentalists, scientists, engineers, and academics.

The Symposium concluded with advice from the panelists to women wanting to enter the finance scene: don’t be afraid to ask hard questions, challenging organisational thought and processes, since you are as qualified as everyone else in the room.