World Defense Show lays out priorities of this year’s event

At the World Defense Show, where the second edition will take place between 4-8 February 2024 in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, organisers laid out priorities for this year’s event and underlined women’s role.

Highlights of World Defense Show’s statement is as follows:

“The role of women in the defense industry is changing across the Middle East, but particularly in Saudi Arabia, as successful programs, such as the World Defense Show’s International Women in Defense forum, have shown.

The defense sector remains a male dominated industry across the globe. It was reported last year that women represented just 23-25% of the workforce of the top five United States defense contractors.

However, there is hope for change. When it comes to female CEOs, the aerospace and defense industry is surpassing other industries in equality. According to Korn Ferry, women CEOs represent 19% of the leaders in aerospace and defense, compared to just 5% across all other sectors. Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Boeing’s defense, space and security division, four of the five largest United States aerospace and defense firms, are all headed by women.

While this imbalance is also present in the Middle East, a traditionally more conservative region when it comes to gender roles, in recent years there has been a notable upturn in female participation and contribution. Arab women are increasingly breaking stereotypes by taking on roles traditionally reserved for men in the defense sector, with many now serving as pilots, engineers, peacekeepers, and in special forces units.

There have been notable achievements across the region recently: Jana Sader became Lebanon’s first female fixed-wing pilot; Sabaa Thnaibat, the first woman to fly the F-16 platform solo in the Jordanian Air Force; Sheikha Aisha bint Rashid Al Khalifa became Bahrain’s first female fighter pilot; Sara Sabry became the first Egyptian in space; and Saudi Arabian Rayannah Barnawi became the first Arab woman astronaut. All showcase a growing openness to challenge established gender norms.

This challenging of stereotypes and breaking of barriers is demonstrating a change in dynamics and priorities across the Middle East, but has been especially noticeable in Saudi Arabia."

At the first World Defense Show in 2022, the International Women in Defense Program that took place on 8th March, International Women’s Day, was a resounding success. Led by Ambassador Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the event addressed the challenges and celebrated achievements in the industry, though a series of expert panels and discussions. The program returns for WDS 2024, with an expanded format and another impressive roll call of influential industry leaders, with Ambassador Reema once again at the helm.

Ambassador Reema said: “This is a moment to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women around the world from our past and present. Women have been serving, fighting, and contributing to the security and prosperity of their nations for over 100 years.

“International Women in Defense is a global campaign, creating resilience in an ever-changing world, and helping us to navigate the challenges we face within the sector, sharing personal experiences and celebrating the contributions of women who continue to serve their country. In this event, we converge to support national, regional and international efforts to accelerate women's participation in the defense sector on a global scale, forging alliances and sharing best practice which are fundamental to retain the pace of change,” she added.

Ambassador to the United States Reema bint Bandar Al Saud will also attend the event on the role of women in defense and security during the World Defense Show 2024.

Leave a Comment