Historic Saudi W20 Summit seeks to inspire, empower women

Historic Saudi W20 Summit seeks to inspire, empower women

The Women 20 (W20) Summit, hosted for the first time in Saudi Arabia and sponsored by Aramco, brought women’s empowerment and diversity and inclusion to center stage. The summit, held virtually on Oct. 21-22, drew influential women and men from around the world to speak and advocate for gender equality. Aramco’s Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Division was privileged to play a pivotal role in its success, hosting the highest attended parallel session and supporting the event on multiple levels.


The G20 is a forum for international economic cooperation and brings together the leaders of both developed and developing countries from every continent. Its members account for around 80% of the world’s economic output and three-quarters of international trade. Throughout the year, representatives from G20 countries gather to discuss pressing financial and socioeconomic issues.

Described as an “engagement group,” the W20 was set up in 2015 and functions independently. Attendees represented G20 member countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the U.K., the U.S., and the European Union.

During Saudi Arabia’s presidency, the W20 sought to ensure that gender issues were brought to the center of G20 discussions. Topics covered at the W20 summit included the policy changes needed to promote the empowerment of women globally in the key areas of financial, digital, labor, decision making, and entrepreneurial inclusion.


Saudi Aramco’s prominent participation in the W20 reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to diversity, empowerment, and inclusion.

During the summit, Saudi Aramco hosted a panel session under the banner “Empowering Women: A Practical Approach,” moderated by Reema H. Siyam, Aramco’s head of D&I. Expert panelists included Judith Michelle Williams, SVP, People Sustainability and chief D&I Office at SAP; Dr. Mary Meaney, senior partner and leader of Global Organization Practice at McKinsey and Company; and Dr. Maria Angelica Pérez, global head of D&I at Standard Chartered Bank.

The panelists explored practical ways to empower women and men through tested methodologies and covered a wide range of issues from the current COVID-19 pandemic to digital inclusion and “leading with empathy.” The Saudi Aramco session had the highest attendance of any session at the W20.

Role model

Speaking afterwards, Siyam said, “Our goal at Saudi Aramco is to become a global role model for diversity and inclusion. We can achieve this by fostering inclusive environments and deploying initiatives that empower women, such as the Leading National Academy, and encouraging educational opportunities for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).”

High-level Aramco engagements

Saudi Aramco was a key player in the W20 over the entire year, not just the summit, with consistent involvement in events such as the W20 “Virtual Majlis” hosted by Al Nahda Society, Aramco’s W20 Internal Launch Webinar, and the National Dialogue series.

These events allowed Aramco the opportunity to advise on and contribute to a wide range of issues to support women in the workplace and to raise awareness within the company on the value of achieving gender parity.

Three important takeaways:

  • “Empathy is Empowerment”: The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the global landscape and leadership has changed as result. Organizations that emphasized empathy with their employees have yielded positive results in productivity and engagement.
  • Involve women in decision making: The economic and global health crisis has impacted women disproportionately, and greater female representation in decision making will speed recovery from the pandemic-induced economic downturn.
  • Promote female role models: Promoting and highlighting female role models are key to advancing women and empowering them in the Kingdom’s economy. All sectors have a responsibility to ensure that their role models are as diverse as the workforce itself is.

Caption for top photo: Participants at the W20 meeting spoke on a number of issues, including gender equality. Aramco played a major role in its success.


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