Arab International Women’s Forum and Masdar’s WiSER jointly launch ‘On the Road to COP28: Women-Led Innovation in Climate, Sustainability & STEM’ report and recommendations

Download the Conference Report

Key report launched ahead of COP28 in the UAE, explores international strategies to embed diversity and nurture women’s leadership across: climate action, finance, business, AI, STEM research, education and innovation.

On 10 May 2023, ahead of the UAE hosting the UN Climate Change Conference COP28, the Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) and the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy platform (WiSER, an initiative of Masdar) joined forces to champion women-led innovation at a major conference at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, ‘On the Road to COP28: Women-Led Innovation in Climate, Sustainability & STEM’.

‘On The Road to COP28’ is a unique and inclusive initiative of AIWF and WiSER to facilitate new collaborations supporting SDG17 (‘Partnerships for the Goals’).  It ensures women’s voices are front and centre in global conversations about climate action, food security, water resilience, clean energy, the future of work, responsible business, financing sustainability and innovation, and technology and the digital economy. The initiative, designed to foster greater UK-GCC-MENA collaboration, is a critical partnership from the AIWF and WiSER communities to the global dialogue on women’s critical role in mitigating climate change –  and innovating sustainable, equitable and inclusive solutions towards a better future for people and planet.

Core COP28 topics underpinned the program and recurred throughout the international conference including: capacity-building, climate finance, climate technology, cooperative action on the SDGs, education, youth, gender and innovation. The key discussions and conclusions emerging from the conference panel sessions have been synthesized into a report and recommendations that AIWF and WiSER have today jointly published. The report will be presented to the COP28 Presidency in the UAE.

The AIWF x WiSER Conference was addressed by nearly 40 leading lights, experts and thought leaders, with distinguished panel chairs and speakers representing diverse sectors spanning non-profit organisations, private sector corporations, international institutions and civil society including: Masdar, The World Bank, the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, HSBC, Dell, the UK Department for Business & Trade, the World Energy Council, ADNOC LNG, Mission Innovation, Bahrain’s Royal University for Women, Vodafone UK, the London School of Economics, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Standard Chartered, the SANAD Fund for MSME and Vistra.

The conference was attended by 120 senior and emerging women leaders working in government, the international institutions, ESG, STEM, finance, business, entrepreneurship, civil society representatives, academics and higher education leaders. AIWF and WiSER were also proud to welcome a number of Master’s students and early career researchers, and AIWF members, guests, fellows and delegates who attended from across the UK, EU and the Arab world from the GCC and MENA region.

Commenting on the report launch, Haifa Al Kaylani, President & Founder of the Arab International Women’s Forum, said: “As the world looks for solutions to the climate crisis and ahead of the UAE hosting the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 in November / December 2023, the Arab International Women’s Forum was very proud to join forces with WiSER to champion women’s collective spirit for innovation. Following COP26 in Glasgow and COP27 in Egypt, our conference served as a vital platform for dialogue, discovery and cross-cultural business and leadership exchange in the run up to COP28 to be held in the UAE later this month. This initiative was designed to capture critical conversations on climate and sustainability challenges, opportunities and outcomes, and to inspire greater innovation, entrepreneurship, growth and resilience in these key sectors. We are proud to have jointly produced a solid report that contributes meaningfully to the regional and global dialogue on climate action, STEM and sustainability, and to have done so in a way that spotlights the remarkable – and often unacknowledged – achievements and contributions of women leaders in STEM.”

Mrs Al Kaylani continued: “We now look forward to continuing our important work with WiSER and Masdar in the UAE, as well as with our many partners in our global and regional sustainability advocacy networks, to put the many viable recommendations delivered through this initiative into action, for the betterment of women, families, communities and whole societies in the MENA region and beyond at this important juncture for sustainability and especially now as we head towards 2030 and the realisation of the SDGs.”

Dr Lamya Fawwaz, Executive Director for Brand & Strategic Initiatives at Masdar and Program Director of WiSER, said: “As we approach COP28 UAE, where inclusion is a central theme, this report provides actionable insight into how enhancing women’s leadership in technology, agriculture, and clean energy can support the global climate goals. The report highlights key opportunities, such as increasing climate finance and bridging the industry-academia gap that holds women back from STEM careers. These actions, along with investments in women-led solutions, will ensure that women are at the forefront of delivering innovative climate action.”

Dr Fawwaz continued: “In partnership with AIWF, WiSER is committed to amplifying women’s voices and fostering their leadership to combat climate change. The report aligns with a key pillar of the COP28 UAE agenda, ‘ensuring full inclusivity’, and its findings can contribute to realizing a COP of action and a COP for all.”

AIWF and WiSER signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on International Women’s Day 2021, aiming to deliver impactful initiatives that will benefit women and young leaders in the region to support their economic and social inclusion towards a peaceful and more prosperous future for the MENA region overall. As Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for the COP28 Presidency, has said: “A healthy environment, including its climate and biodiversity, is central to everyone’s wellbeing. We must go beyond business as usual and elevate nature as an important solution to climate change. To accomplish this, we need everyone to contribute to global climate action, including women, youth, and indigenous people, as well as business, government, civil society, and academia.”

AIWF and WiSER are especially proud to have worked in close collaboration and in dialogue with all the stakeholders and speakers featured in this report, all women leaders from across the GCC, the broader MENA region, the UK, US and Europe, who generously gave their time and expertise to explore strategies for improving women’s representation at all levels of the sector, paving the way for the next generation of women leaders in climate, sustainability and STEM. In this pivotal year for women in STEM, with the UAE prepared to host COP28 in November 2023, AIWF and WiSER hope that the key findings and recommendations published within this report will inform policy and practice in these vital sectors, and inspire the next generation of women leaders in global and MENA climate, and STEM entrepreneurship, education, research and innovation.


The AIWF x WiSER ‘On the Road to COP28’ programme welcomed outstanding Guest Speakers to the Opening Keynote Session, including Haifa Al Kaylani, President & Founder, Arab International Women’s Forum, UK; Dr Lamya Fawwaz, Executive Director of Brand and Strategic Initiatives at Masdar, and Program Director of WiSER; Lord Swire KCMG PC, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, Member of the House of Lords; Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas DBE, Chair of the Trustees, Commonwealth War Graves Foundation, UK; and Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO, Royal Academy of Engineering, UK.

Session 1, Championing women-led innovation in MENA sustainable agriculture for a food-secure, water-resilient future, chaired by Haifa Al Kaylani, examined the role of women and technology in sustainable agriculture for a food-secure, water-resilient future, water being the great climate connector. The speakers were Julian Lampietti, Manager for Global Engagement in the Agriculture and Food Global Practice, The World Bank, USA; Dr Majd Alnaber, Director of Science for Society Centre, Royal Scientific Society, Jordan; Dr Dalal Al Ghawas, Founder and Agrifood Consultant at SWAPAC, Singapore; and Sarah Roberts, CEO, Practical Action, UK.

Session 2, Mainstreaming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in tech/ AI entrepreneurship and the digital economy, chaired by Dr Loubna Bouarfa, Machine learning scientist and founder CEO of OKRA.AI and Advisory Board Member, Oxford Internet Institute, examined new opportunities for women innovators in tech / AI entrepreneurship and the digital economy. The speakers were Fatima Hadj, Chief Climate Investment Strategist, HSBC Asset Management, UK; Margarete McGrath, Global Advisory and Strategy Partner Lead, Dell Technologies, UK; Jamila Saidi, Global Head of Digital Commerce & Head of Retail & Luxury (Trade & Investment), Department for Business & Trade, UK; and Elena Sinel, Founder, Teens in AI, UK.

Session 3, Women-led innovation in clean energy, environmental protection, and climate action: Creating new opportunities through partnership and collaboration, chaired by Olulana Nwosu, Director of Policy & Markets, World Energy Council, UK, explored women’s leadership in clean energy, environmental protection, and climate action. For this session, we had the pleasure of welcoming Iman Ustadi, Head of Negotiations-UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change & WiSER Pioneer 2023, UAE; Phoebe Stone, Partner–Head of Sustainable Investing, LGT Wealth Management, UK; and Eleanor Webster, Head of Secretariat, Mission Innovation, UK.

Session 4, Preparing for the Future of Work: Empowering the next generation of sustainability leaders through education, skills and decent work, chaired by Chidi King, Branch Chief, Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Branch (GEDI), in the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department, ILO, explored the need to prepare for the future of work in MENA, spotlighting the importance of education, skills and decent work. The session benefited from the insights of Professor Yusra Mouzughi, President, Royal University for Women, Bahrain; Noora AlMarzooqi, Board Member, Vice President-Group Strategic Investments at ADNOC; and Karoona Ramah Sleightholme, Head of Digital & IT Delivery, Vodafone, UK.

Session 5, Financing sustainability research, innovation and entrepreneurship for women and youth: Navigating access to finance and impact investing, chaired by Barbara Rambousek, Director, Gender & Economic Inclusion, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, UK, examined issues around access to finance and impact investing for women innovators and young leaders working in the sustainability spheres, with Joumana Asso, Founder & Managing Director, Clima Capital Partners, USA; Iveta Tancheva-Nikolova, Director – Investment Management, SANAD Fund for MSME, Germany; and Marisa Drew, Chief Sustainability Officer at Standard Chartered, joining us as panel speakers.

AIWF and WiSER were especially proud to spotlight the inspirational AIWF Young Arab Women Leaders alumni and WiSER Pioneers 2023 in a special session finale, The Future We Want, chaired by Emma Cox, Global Climate Leader, PwC and welcoming the following inspirational young leaders as speakers: Heba Al Emara, Managing Director Middle East, Vistra, UK/UAE; Christelle Comair, Policy Advisor on youth and women’s empowerment, University of Paris-Saclay; 2021-2022 Research Fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP), Harvard Kennedy School; Dr Mona Hamade, Partnerships Development Manager at Meta, UK; Shalom Iboh, Field Engineering Operator Notore Plc & WiSER Pioneer 2023, Nigeria; Hajer Ben Charrada, Manager Corporate Strategy TAQA & WiSER Pioneer 2023, UAE; and Monica Gao, Solicitor (England & Wales) in Sustainability & WiSER Pioneer 2023, UAE.

For interview requests please email AIWF Press & Communications Team

All images by BigT Images

Our warm thanks and appreciation to our esteemed Opening Keynote Speakers, Session Chairs & valued Panel Guest Speakers who so generously contributed to the rich report and recommendations