Upskilling and empowering local women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we shared how we #EmbraceEquity not only in the workplace but in our work. Get an inside look at how our teams are embracing equity through their projects and positively impacting the lives of women as well as underserved communities around the world.
We seek to build diverse teams, create an inclusive workplace, and provide opportunities to support women in the local community across our Middle East and Africa region. Our mCircles AlUla initiative is a testament to that commitment, and is giving local women entrepreneurs the skills they need to succeed.
Originally launched in 2014 in the United States, mCircles was created to help AECOM’s women professionals seek and receive mentorship and boost their career growth. Recently, this grassroots initiative was launched in our newest office in the Middle East in AlUla, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Adapting the format, mCircles AlUla extended its welcome to local women working in the AlUla Governate. Offering a supportive space for soft skills education and development opportunities, the inclusive forum allows for the sharing of experiences amongst aspiring women entrepreneurs. Each session is guided by a theme allowing for varied discussion and group mentoring. Topics range from finance to sales and marketing.
Organized in collaboration with our client, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU)—the Saudi government entity responsible for the development and protection of the AlUla province—and with the support and capabilities building company, AstroLabs, this is the first forum of its kind in AlUla, designed to upskill and empower local women.
mCircles AlUla to launch its third session for IWD 2023
To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, the team in AlUla launched the third edition of the group mentoring program. The session supported around 40 participants in identifying the best strategies to market their businesses and/or products to the RCU.
Sarah Alanazi, a Saudi national from the AlUla region who was hired through the AECOM graduate program, is now one of our colleagues facilitating the program. “AECOM has given local women a great educational opportunity that has affected their businesses at a personal and professional level,” she says.
“The women have such an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in their field who can guide them as mentors and help them to expand their business to contribute effectively to the local community. With AECOM providing this opportunity, it has started to, and will continue to, benefit everyone and further enrich our community.”
AlUla Redevelopment Program
Creating opportunities for women is one of the focus areas of the RCU’s AlUla Redevelopment Program, where we are serving as executive program manager. As this program transforms the area, international businesses are coming into the governate to provide goods, services and experiences from construction, to resorts and events. So that the program can fully succeed, it is essential that it also benefits the local communities. Our work with local women entrepreneurs enhances their role within the community, as well as their incomes. It also generates broader employment opportunities for local people.
An example of the program’s success
Annayat, the owner of a local bakery, participated in our first mCircles event in the Middle East. She joined the mentoring circle discussion in sales and marketing where female entrepreneurs shared their challenges and solutions.
Through the knowledge and best practices sharing process, she developed an understanding for the need to build a brand around her business, including the creation of a logo, packaging, and stationery. Prior to the event, she had no network in the marketing and branding field.
Because of mCircles, Annayat was able to connect with Arwa, a brand development specialist who developed a compelling brand identity for Annayat, encompassing all her business needs.
Annayat believes this networking and support has opened new opportunities for her business. She will be among the business owner speakers at the next mCircles event in the region.
“mCircles has really enhanced the local community with these opportunities for local women and women entrepreneurs,” says Leisa Vink, our logistics and administration manager who also leads the mCircles program. “The sessions so far have helped many women build confidence, connections and prospects. There is so much strength when people with similar interests and diverse backgrounds come together and work toward the same goals, kindness and kinship… it’s an incredible sense of community that we have fostered.”