Aurora50

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Two candles for Aurora50, many more projects to come

Aurora50 turns two - happy birthday!

This month Aurora50 turned two 🎈🎈🎂 and what a couple of years it has been since our launch in April 2020.

We have put 23 talented and aspiring women in senior management through our Pathway20 accelerator – a training and development programme for highly competent women in senior management looking to accelerate their board careers.

Obviously we have all been battling the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic for the past two years – as long as Aurora50 has been in existence.

Pathway20 graduates win independent board roles

That has given us unique challenges as a start-up; border controls were put in place in Abu Dhabi just three days before we were due to announce Pathway20, for instance.

Pathway20 was so called to honour the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority’s goal to appoint women to 20 percent of boards in the UAE. Last year, ESCA also introduced a quota of one woman per board.

I am so very proud that two graduates have already secured their first independent board roles at listed entities. Mariam Balfaqeh is now on the board of Takaful Emarat and Fatima Al Fahim has been appointed to Arkan Building Materials’ board.

Our Manarat beacons

Before Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and I launched Pathway20, we held a meeting with women holding listed seats. We were overwhelmed with offers of support from the women – and they suggested we create a networking group.

The Aurora50 team on its second birthday, April 2022
The Aurora50 team on its second birthday, April 2022 – from L-R: Greg Dearden (holding photo of Suzanne Locke), Fardeen Veljee, Rachel Pereira, Tori DaHarb, Diana Wilde (seated), Daniel Dean, Anu Bhattacharya (holding photo of Kamille Marchant) and Ashita D’Souza (holding photo of Victoria Rose).

So Manarat – meaning lighthouses in Arabic, because we see these women as beacons to guide other women along this pathway to the board – was born, as a club for women directors from the region to meet.

In the past two years, we have also run The Board Summit twice – the first time in August 2020 as a virtual event; the second in September 2021 as a hybrid in-person and virtual event.

50 percent more attendees at The Board Summit

At TBS20, 455 attended online. Last year that jumped 50 percent to 680 attendees for TBS21, including 420 board directors, from 450 different , over 18 amazing hours.

What else? We have launched a new mid-career accelerator to put women into senior management roles, and we’re soon to release our first research report (contact us if you’d like more information), which uses our Manarat network to suggest ways to help aspiring women reach the board faster.

Personally I have also been privileged to speak at many events in the past two years, including the Middle East Investor Relations Association (MEIRA)’s diversity and inclusion panel and Kearney’s International Women’s Day Forum.

New Aurora50 offices

I helped judge the inaugural Aviram Awards and spoke to Bloomberg, The National, Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast, Entrepreneur and the like about the progress women are making. We also co-hosted an event on women in the energy sector with ADNOC during Adipec.

Finally, we moved into our new offices this month too – a birthday treat – so we have a dedicated space for our daily stand-ups and collaborations. Before working at Aurora50 I was working for a commodities giant, structuring deals… my day-to-day life is very different now!

We have huge ambitions to impact our clients’ company DNA. Seeing the team grow and bring fresh perspectives to Aurora50 is my favourite part of being this social enterprise’s chief executive.

Aurora50's office
Aurora50’s office

Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, co-founder, Aurora50

It has been a real privilege and honour to see a solid community has been formed because of Manarat, to see the achievements that the women on Pathway20 have had on listed boards and to see the policy change to increase women on boards. Our work isn’t over but it’s a fulfilling, impact-driven organisation with much to look forward to. Next we need to scale and impact women not only locally but regionally and globally. We have started it in the UAE but this is for the world.

Anuradha Bhattacharya, project manager

I’ve only been with Aurora50 for a month: the pace of change is indicative of how massive our scope of work.

Staying ahead of the curve on gender balance is critical for companies and governments. There is huge economic value to building a pipeline of women for the highest echelons of business, with a gender lens on succession planning – and this is where A50’s core strength lies.

Working on Pathway20, I can see that the programme is not just a tick in the box but adds tangible value for the women building their profiles and network, with mentors, coaches and a really supportive ecosystem to stay with them long after.

Tori DaHarb, business development executive

I’ve been with Aurora50 since 2020 and it has been a personal highlight to work with the top female executives, HR teams and corporate leaders in the UAE to drive change.

It’s incredible to see the growth from all sides to support the United Nations’ sustainable development goal no.5 (SDG5) for gender equality.

We look forward to these announcements becoming more and more frequent and supporting the broader pipeline of incredibly talented executives in the uae

Daniel Dean, business performance manager

Diversity and inclusion (D&I or diversity, equity and inclusion, DEI) is Aurora50’s bread and butter – and D&I is very much attached to my role too.

‘Perspectives’ is a one of my favourite words: it is in the uniqueness and skill of each team member, from different vocations, nationalities and backgrounds, coming together that really make a company grow.

My role is to ensure that the company is running full steam ahead and the internal customers (employees) are engaged and performing. The next chapter is bigger and deeper. Relationships and partnerships grow and we become the D&I preferred company that everyone wants to work with and work in.

Greg Dearden, head of content

I’ve only been here five months but the growth of Aurora50 has been really exciting, with several new hires and moving to a new office.

Aurora50 has allowed me the opportunity to meet some amazing, successful and driven individuals.

Not only does this include the ladies on Pathway20 – who are very senior within their companies and also have MBAs, run their own side businesses and look after young children – but also meeting some of the most senior people in the country, such as Dr Aisha bin Bishr, vice chair of the board of Emaar and the former Director General of Smart Dubai, one of our expert speakers on both Pathway20 and The Board Summit 2022.

Ashita D’Souza, graphic designer

I’ve been encouraged to see how each member of the team has contributed to Aurora50 to make it a platform for women to reach board level. I think Aurora50 creates a safe place for women to work and to be heard in an office space.

Suzanne Locke, content strategist

What Aurora50 is doing for gender equality in the UAE is crucial work: we start at the top (the boardroom) but build a pipeline of talented women from the ground through every stage of their career.

In putting together our upcoming research report, we’ve seen how important it is to plot your career path to the board even from your first job.

Next I’d like to build our education on diversity and gender equality at work for the wider GCC through the Aurora50 site and newsletter, with interview series such as the ones I wrote on Emirati women leaders and some of the top Gulf women board directors.

Rachel Pereira, intern

My biggest achievement is seeing through The Board Summit 2021 and I’d like the upcoming summit to have a 10-fold higher success. Aurora50 will always be very close to me, as this was my initial budding beginning. I absolutely love Diana and Sheikha’s initiative.

Victoria Rose, executive assistant

I have been with Aurora50 from the early days. I have been lucky enough to have been a long-standing member of Aurora50’s journey. The biggest achievement has to be when the government stood up and listened to what Aurora50 had to say; as a result, Diana and Aurora50 featured heavily in the news when new legislations came into effect for gender-balanced boards. There are so many opportunities for Aurora50 in the years to come; I can definitely see Aurora50 becoming a global enterprise.

Fardeen Veljee, marketing manager

My journey has been extremely short in terms of time, but it feels like I’ve been here for much longer. Diana’s a brilliant CEO who isn’t afraid of putting you in the deep end to learn.

As a company, we have established credibility through our work with the regulators, ESCA and the Central Bank of the UAE, and with partners to our Pathway20 programme.

So for me it’s now to get brand credibility going forward: can we make Aurora50 a name that is a mandate to partner with for organisations and aspiring talent?

And we have some amazing successes to celebrate for our second birthday: for instance, FAB, First Abu Dhabi Bank, one of our clients, increased their MSCI ESG rating partly by partnering with us.

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