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A first-of-its-kind GLOBAL WOMEN LEADERSHIP Initiative






By Women, for Women

It was a rare candid interview of Shaikha Al-Bahar, Deputy Group CEO of one of Kuwait’s and the region’s largest banks – the National Bank of Kuwait. Speaking from the comfort of her residence, the interview gave insight into her life, a welcome respite for the many employees at NBK during the stressful times of the pandemic. Shaikha Al-Bahar shared her ideas, thoughts, and her day to day; it was a revelatory peek into the life of one of GCC’s most powerful women. After the interview, she spoke of the need for more support for women in the corporate world. She spoke of finding ways to help them aim higher and achieve breakthroughs. One thing led to another, and the interview ended with a promise of working towards this goal.

To give some context to this thought, the conversation stemmed from many factors. One is that although women today have a lot more freedom and opportunities to excel, not many can be found in top leadership positions. Numerous reasons can be attributed to this shortfall, although women have proven to be influential leaders whenever they have made it to the top. Increased representation of women leaders has opened doors to diverse problem-solving, greater collaboration, swifter decision-making, higher employee engagement, and better communication. So, a push for more female leadership representation is a sound strategic direction for organizations to undertake.

A few months later, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, an event organized to celebrate women at NBK, Shaikha Al-Bahar made another appearance. This time her resolve was stronger and clearer; she spoke of her journey, stories, and experiences as a female leader and left the women gathered at the event inspired with one line scribbled on the wall. A line that was an answer to the many questions women in the corporate world ask themselves every day.

“Can I be successful in the financial world?”

“Can I manage teams and a family?”

“Can I become a leading figure in a top organization?”

The line written on the wall read:

“Yes, I can.”

Among the many women present at the event, there were two who were genuinely moved by the words. Najla Al-Sager and Alia Abu El Fath, two senior managers from diverse entities within the NBK Group, thought this was a moment in history, and there was an opportunity to create something never done before in the corporate world. Days later, this unlikely team approached Shaikha Al-Bahar with an idea for a program to inspire and equip women to “Rise” to higher leadership roles and spearhead organizations worldwide, a program to help carve out inspirational and effective female leaders. Sharing their passion and enthusiasm for the project, Shaikha Al-Bahar had found the answer she was looking for.

This was the birth of NBK RISE, a first-of-its-kind Global Women Leadership Initiative designed by women for women.

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