Voice of a GCC BDI interview: Hana Al Syead

Voice of a GCC BDI interview: Hana Al Syead

Hana Y. AlSyead is VP – Diversity and Chairwoman Steering Committee, Olayan Women Network (OWN), Olayan Financing Company.

Al Syead has over 25 years of combined experience in systems engineering, business and banking operations, marketing, international relations and technology solutions’ development. She is an expert in the creation of organisational transformation strategies, high impact business plans, critical issues’ solutions, and building sustainable systems that promote efficiency, effectiveness and progress continuity. 

Hana, what do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy creating opportunities and making things possible. It’s what excites me. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

It gives me a priceless satisfaction that I’m helping pave the way for a better future; to make a difference for women and youth in my country.

What are some of the most challenging parts of your role?

Whenever we achieve a milestone, the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘what more can be done?’ Answering this question is important to keep the momentum from going stale and to push forward. I deal with this challenge by just keeping at it.

There are things that are within our control and others that are not. While we try our best within ourselves and our community, there’s still a lot more that can be done collectively. The opportunities for progress are limitless, hence there will always be more to be explored and applied.

Why do you think it benefits boards to have women (and more diversity) on the board?

It’s about inclusion and contribution, in addition to the fact that studies have already proved the financial benefits. The boardroom needs diversity because boards don’t exist in isolation. Boards are part of wider communities and economies. The company’s outlook and direction is impacted by the board profile; the more diverse the board is, the more opportunities there are for the organisation, including better governance.

Diverse boards allow for openness, growth and different perspectives. I look forward to a day when this question is no longer asked.

What actions do you recommend to encourage more women into board level positions?

I believe in quotas as an “intervention”, but not as a permanent measure. Quotas need to be supported by a system that encourages and supports its achievements. A proper quota system will definitely work – just like it has in Norway where female representation grew by 2.5 per cent annually for 13 years.

Another measure I would love to see in my country and region is a Gender Diversity Index. Once implemented, it will give us an indication of how we are performing in our gender inclusion efforts, and foster a healthy environment to compete in this field.

What are your thoughts on the recent appointment of female CEOs at the major Saudi Arabian banks?

It is great news and it is only the beginning, but we need more of them – many, many more and in all sectors of the industry.

I have no doubt that Saudi Arabia will make significant progress in the coming years. In less than a decade we have already achieved a lot and there is no doubt that we are going in the right direction.

I would like to see Saudi Arabia reach the top 50 countries in the WEF gender gap report. I believe we are not far from seeing this as a reality.