Celebrating Manchester’s wealth of talented women

Celebrating Manchester’s wealth of talented women

Middle East Centre hosts special interactive session for International Women’s Day 2024

Are you ready to enter the boardroom? It was a breakfast meeting with a difference – a special occasion (International Women’s Day – theme: Invest in women, accelerate progress) combining a celebration of the remarkable achievements and contributions of the women of The University of Manchester (staff, students and alumni) along with an interactive mini workshop - ‘Boardroom Ready: Owning your voice and leading with Confidence’ – presenting a chance for guests to reflect on their own personal brands.

In her introduction and welcome to the event, Hiba Abbassi, Manager of Careers and Alumni Relations at the Middle East Centre, stressed the University’s - and Centre’s - serious commitment to supporting and empowering women, with a wealth of talented women already in many of the most senior positions on campus (led by Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell – President and Vice-Chancellor of the University) and across the University’s international centres – all of which are led by professional women. This includes the Middle East, where the Centre was established and launched in 2006 by founding director, Randa Bessiso, who is consistently ranked among the most influential women in the Arab world.

The Middle East Centre is the largest and fastest growing centre in the network, which since 2006 has supported more than 3,400 students (19% are female) and graduated 2,300 students (18% female), while engaging a regional community of more than 5,000 alumni. Today, women comprise 30% of the Centre’s active students in the region, and in the latest two cohorts of Global Part-time MBA students, female representation reached 36%. The Centre would like to increase female representation across programme cohorts and invites women to join and become part of the community.

Hiba said: “The University is committed to supporting women by giving them access to education, access to tools and resources that will help them realise their potential and reach their goals, and by giving them access to a network of like-minded professionals and the confidence to do the things that will help them move forward.

“At the University, we aim to make a difference and create an impact – our videos show how our students and alumni are making an impact in their professional lives and on the communities in which they live. Please share your impact stories with us.”

Guest speaker Rouba Zeidan is a corporate reputation consultant and a leadership and public speaking coach, as well as an author. Through a series of interactive discussions, Rouba explored three key areas critical for success in the boardroom: Communication and presence (mastering nonverbal communication, vocal delivery, and self-presentation to project confidence and leadership in boardroom settings); Building your narrative (curating the stories that define your journey, mould your leadership abilities and affirm your unique power); Personal branding (developing and refining a powerful personal brand that effectively communicates leadership value and resonates in the boardroom environment).

Rouba – who is also a jazz singer/song writer (and with the voice and stage presence to match) – highlighted the essential need for personal branding (a prerequisite and mandatory for anyone looking to build an executive career). She led guests through a practical and interactive personal branding exercise using a structured framework – ‘your message house’ – to define your value proposition (a concise statement that communicates what you bring to the table and why it matters) and core messages and proof points, underpinned by a particular tone of voice, purpose, brand personality, and language (keywords and elevator pitch).

As she explained, building a persona and projecting this to others consistently and constantly is vital – and being authentic shows courage. “You want people to vouch for your success... Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room…Take your boardroom ready persona and communicate it to different levels of people…It’s about becoming unforgettable.”

She went on to explain that 52% of companies are more likely to hire you because of your personal brand. The advantage of the personal brand is that you affirm your expertise and credibility and differentiate yourself from your peers. It’s no longer optional if you want to get to the boardroom - you have to manage your personal brand and your personal story consistently and across social media. 86% of recruiters will look at your social media before they hire you. 70% of c-level executives actively manage their brand. This means ensuring that professional bios and photos are essential for LinkedIn and Google search, with testimonials from clients or others. Rouba then led an exercise in which guests paired-up and did a Google search on each other, before describing their findings to the group.

“Being boardroom ready means being in the light and you get used to the light – be comfortable with it. Happy International Women’s Day.”

The power of the network

One of the few male voices in the room, Rohit Mathur – a full-time MBA graduate alumni of The University of Manchester was visiting the UAE for a day and joined the group. He briefly shared his experience of the power of the network.

“I thought it was a very opportune time to tell you about the power of the Manchester network of Manchester MBAs. I graduated in 2007….and now live in London. Last week, I actually had to go to Riyadh…I had never been to Riyadh in my life. When I landed there, all I did was call up my MBA peers – believe or not I did not actually know that there were three of them living and working in Riyadh. I wanted to speak to some people in banks and they just simply connected me to the banking network in Riyadh and then in the evening I was having dinner and get-togethers with them, when I clicked some pictures and sent them to my wife who asked – are you on a work trip or are you meeting friends from your MBA days? The point is the power of the network you get with a globally recognised institution like Manchester – the Manchester MBA was amazing. The same thing happened in Dubai and I contacted the Centre and Hiba said why don’t you join us, so here I am. The rest of the day, I’m meeting some other MBAs from my year, the year above and below, all in different organisations and so I’m here for one day and flying back tonight - it’s lovely to meet and happy International Women’s Day.”

Rohit is an Investment Partner at Digital Horizon. He focuses on investments in the UK, EU, Indian, and SEA markets especially those in Fintech, Insurtech, Edtech, B2B SaaS and Healthtech space. He is also Global Alumni Council Board Member. He has an MBA (AT Kearney Scholar, Director's List) and B.Engg in Electrical and Electronics (Honour's List).

ROUBA ZEIDAN - Business Professional, Corporate Reputation Consultant, Leadership & Public Speaking Coach, Author
Rouba is a business professional with 25+ years’ experience in marketing, communication, and executive coaching. Spent her career helping clients of various industries to manage brand and individual reputation. Her work also involves media training and coaching senior executives to better represent their companies especially during crisis. She has advised private and government clients across diverse industries, safeguarding their brand reputation across the MENA region and internationally. As an Executive Coach and Media Trainer, she empowers senior executives to enhance their media presence and equips professionals with strong public speaking and leadership skills. Her passion for human empowerment led her to pursue an MBA in Coaching, Mentoring, and Leadership. Rouba advocates for women's and children's rights, gender equality, and self- development through TEDx talks and co-authored an environmental awareness book, "Boto," engaging with young readers. She is a prolific ghost writer for tier one publications, and her strategic communication prowess shines through award-winning campaigns for clients such as American Express, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and more. Rouba's multifaceted expertise has left an indelible mark on the world of strategic communications in her career.