Last week, I was invited to Dubai to cover the 2018 World Government Summit. WGS, as it’s known, is a global gathering of thinkers, innovators and policymakers designed to explore how governments can best leverage technology to solve the world’s biggest challenges.

WGS is a uniquely Emirati creation — the UAE hosts the only Ministry of Happiness and Tolerance, and is relentlessly committed to using technology and innovation to improve its citizens’ lives.

For three days, I met with some of the most transformative leaders from across the world. These were bold thinkers and doers who want to shape the future, not to be shaped by it. They tackled questions about medicine and mental health, gender equality, climate change, safety and security, job automation and financial inclusion, and everything else that modern governments are concerned about.

Most striking, I found, were the women leaders I met — strong women who are catalysts for change and transformation in every industry imaginable, committed to helping build a better future for the people of the countries, and of the world.

I sat down with two of those inspiring women to ask about their paths, their success and their conception of what it means to be a woman leader.

Maha Abouelenein is one of them. As an Egyptian-American communications consultant who runs the consultancy and blog, she also formerly ran Google’s Communications in the Middle East and North Africa. She’s also the co-Chair of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Governance Committee.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, now owned by AOL. Arianna is also the author of the bestselling book “The Sleep Revolution” and founder of Thrive Global, a media platform with a mission to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.

Here’s what Arianna and Maha had to say:

Beth Doane: What facets of your personality do you think have most contributed to where you are today?

Maha Abouelenein: I think confidence is a big facet that has contributed to where I am today. If I didn’t feel confident, I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am today. I feel that being confident is what allows you to take on any challenge or mission because it means you are able to adapt, pivot, lead and conquer.

BD: You’re at a crossroads in either life or your career. How do you know which path to take?

Arianna Huffington: Right now we’re living under a collective delusion that we have to choose between burning out or not being successful. Everybody is affected by this delusion, but women pay the highest price. Given that even when they’re working women are usually doing more work outside the workplace, this is a backdoor way of excluding women or at least making it harder for them to advance. That’s one more reason why it’s so important to change this culture of burnout.

My advice is, first, is to prioritize your own well-being. Not only will you be better at your job, you’ll be more effective in all that you have to do outside your job. It’s like what they say on airplanes: put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Next, I would say that as you progress in your career, in addition to looking forward to the next step, look around where you are right now and see what you can do to change the definition of success to empower and enable the women coming after you, so they won’t have to make this choice between burnout and not advancing. If we’re going to change this culture of burnout, it’s going to be women who take the lead.

MA: I trust my gut. Always trust your gut. And don’t be afraid to try things that make you uncomfortable because that is where the growth happens. I am a huge believer in challenging yourself and when two paths present themselves. Take the one that makes you nervous, because that’s the path that will lead to growth.

Right now we’re living under a collective delusion that we have to choose between burning out or not being successful. Everybody is affected by this delusion, but women pay the highest price.

BD: How do you define success?

MA: Success is about being able to do something you love everyday and feel that you are adding value. Its self-defined and something that only you can measure.

AH: Living a life filled with well-being, wisdom, wonder and the power of giving.

BD: As women move forward and continue achieving top-level positions, what do you hope to see more of?

MA: I hope to see women continue to contribute to society at all levels and to lead in roles that allow them to bring a different perspective to the table.

AH: I want to see more women helping women – both directly through things like mentorship and recruitment, and indirectly though working for systemic change that will make advancement easier for women who come up after us.

BD: To me, being a woman means:


AH: Leading. Helping other women. Connecting.

To learn more about the summit and some of the powerful speakers and topics discussed visit:

Images via World Government Summit

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