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LEWAS: empowering, engaging, and elevating women in oil and gas industry


Reem A. Al-Ghanim (center) participates in a LEWAS symposium panel “Highlighting Corporate Excellence,” which was moderated by June Wispelway, AIChE executive director, left. Also taking part was Amal Jamil Fatani of Tata Consultancy Services.


“Empower, Engage, and Elevate” were the three key words on the minds of those who attended the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium (LEWAS) recently in Bahrain.

The purpose of the three days of workshops, speakers, panel discussions, and awards was to help women in the oil and gas industry throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) feel the significance of those three words in their lives and careers.

LEWAS is an industry initiative of the 4th Middle East Process Engineering Conference, which was held in Bahrain the same week. LEWAS steering committee members represent nine different companies, academic institutions, and nongovernmental entities, and is chaired by Reem A. Al-Ghanim, head of Saudi Aramco’s Women Development and Diversity Division (WD&DD) at Saudi Aramco.

Among the recipients of an awards ceremony on the first day, were two members of Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC Advanced Research Center (ARC). Abrar Alabbad, a geologist, was a runner-up for the “Rising Star” award, while EXPEC ARC manager Ali A. Al-Meshari was named a “Corporate Champion.”

‘Illuminating Your Path’

The second day of the event was dedicated to learning and development. Titled “Illuminating Your Path,” the activities were especially targeted at women early in their careers to help give them direction and the motivation to excel.

Zahi Z. Abdein, who is with the WD&DD, presented an interactive workshop titled “Roadmap to Leadership” and Aisha Alomair, also from Saudi Aramco, gave a talk on “Barriers Facing Female Professionals in the Middle East and Asia.” Her presentation examined the barriers women face early in their career such as entering the workforce, lack of retention, and the need for promotion.

Jennifer Born, also from WD&DD, delivered a thought-provoking workshop titled “Work-Life Balance,” in which she pressed participants to think about their answers to a few deep and personal questions: “Are you living out your values, and what does success look like to you?”

Creating the first step

The closing session of the second day, presented by Jennifer Shepard and Lisa Stephens from WD&DD, led participants to evaluate the day’s learnings and focus on a future goal and commit to an action step.

“The workshop really focused on setting goals and creating the first step you need to achieve them,” said Dalia Abushulaih, who is with Saudi Aramco’s Professional Development Program. “My personal experience with this workshop was truly remarkable.

“The greatest moment was when I presented to the whole workshop my goal. I hope to find an opportunity in the future, where I am connected to businesses, government, and society to be able to create positive progress that can be heard, learned, and applied in our great Kingdom. Having the amazing people I was surrounded by to support a dream of mine truly did illuminate my path.”


The final day featured a symposium that included presentations and panel discussions with experts on gender issues in the oil and gas industry.

Al-Ghanim participated in a panel discussion about “Highlighting Corporate Excellence.” This animated discussion focused on the value proposition for gender diversity in the workforce — specifically increased innovation and profitability. Al-Ghanim outlined the “Three P’s” — pipeline, perception, and playing field — citing Saudi Aramco’s commitment to the World Economic Forums “Call-to-Action in Narrowing the Gender Gap in Energy.”

Women must be developed at every stage of the pipeline, said Al-Ghanim, starting with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for girls and executive development for senior women. Perceptions on the roles women can play in the workplace need focus and an equal playing field needs to be established, she added.

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