Championing Women’s Leadership: Wafa AlObaidat, Founder and CEO of PLAYBOOK

by THEFUTURE.TEAM
Wafa AlObaidat, Playbook

Feeling like you were on the outside looking in? Whether at a conference room table or a casual social gathering, we’ve all felt that sting of exclusion at one point or another.

Wafa AlObaidat, the visionary founder and CEO of PLAYBOOK—a fast-growing digital membership networking platform—is revolutionizing how women engage in leadership across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Her fully female-founded, award-winning leadership team has made a significant regional and international impact. As a serial entrepreneur and a prominent TEDx speaker, represented by the leading MENA Speakers Bureau, she leverages her expertise at the nexus of growth, empowerment of women and youth, and entrepreneurship.

Wafa AlObaidat understands the sensation of feeling out of place — a feeling many women in executive roles, tech, or product development can relate to.

In a revealing interview with The Future, she shared that often, the conversation about women in tech seems to suggest a narrative of separation.

However, her aim at PLAYBOOK is the exact opposite, focusing on changing the game from the inside out. Her journey through various industries exposed her to the barriers that prevent many women from ascending to influential positions. Her vision with PLAYBOOK is clear: to integrate, not isolate. She explains that the objective isn’t for women to create separate streams of influence but to become integral parts of existing ones as decision-makers.

For Wafa AlObaidat, true inclusion isn’t about crafting exclusive spaces for women; it’s about fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can bring their unique talents and perspectives to the table. Through PLAYBOOK, she is not just facilitating a network; she is sculpting a future where women are central to leadership narratives.

From her early days as a student at the University of the Arts London to becoming one of the top 50 most influential women leaders in business by Business in the Gulf, Wafa AlObaidat has consistently pushed the boundaries of what’s possible for women in business. She explains that women often face significant barriers that limit their participation in shaping the industries they are a part of.

So, how is this CEO helping more women land board positions and climb the corporate ladder? By ensuring they are equipped, empowered, and most importantly, heard. Through her visionary platform, PLAYBOOK, Wafa AlObaidat is setting a new standard for what leadership looks like in the modern world, making sure that women’s voices are included and influential in shaping the future of global business.

The spark behind PLAYBOOK

What sparked your passion for entrepreneurship and led to the founding of PLAYBOOK? Could you share some early influences and the initial vision that set everything in motion?

My passion for entrepreneurship was ignited at a young age. I was fortunate to be invited to the decision table by my mother, who involved me in meaningful discussions and decisions.

However, growing up, it was challenging to find female role models to learn from. This gap inspired me to create spaces where women’s voices and stories could be heard and celebrated.

To address this, I launched the Women Power Summit, which then evolved into the Women Power Podcast and Women Who Read. These platforms feature honest, vulnerable, and authentic conversations from inspiring women who share their experiences and stories about what it takes to build a successful business and career.

Wafa AlObaidat, Playbook

The initial vision for PLAYBOOK emerged from a personal realization of the barriers women face in the corporate world. I wanted to create a platform that not only provided women with the tools and resources to excel in their careers but also fostered a supportive community where they could connect, learn, and grow together.

PLAYBOOK addresses a critical challenge in the global landscape: the pervasive gender gap in leadership and economic participation.

Less than 17% of C-Suite positions and less than 4% of Board Positions globally are held by women, and less than 2.3% of Global VC Funding is directed to Female Founders. This stark reality underscores the pressing need for a transformative solution to empower women executives and bridge the existing disparity.

What sets PLAYBOOK apart is our dedication to championing diversity, spotlighting real-world success stories, and offering actionable strategies through personal playbooks. This is not just about learning; it’s about transformation. Beyond conventional career development, PLAYBOOK fosters a dynamic community that actively supports networking, live events, and flexible mentorship opportunities.

PLAYBOOK’s contribution to women’s leadership

As an advocate for women’s leadership, how does PLAYBOOK contribute to this cause? Could you give us insight into the unique features of PLAYBOOK that support female executives?

PLAYBOOK is designed to be a one-stop platform for women looking to advance their careers and leadership skills. We offer a cinematic library of masterclasses, executive speaker sessions, workshops, and virtual networking lounges, all tailored to the unique needs of female professionals.

One of our standout features is the 1:1 coaching and mentorship opportunities, which provide personalized guidance and support.

Additionally, our platform includes a marketplace for jobs and perks, helping women access career opportunities and benefits that can enhance their professional journeys.

We also take a localized approach where women can connect with their local circles while engaging with a global audience across 50+ countries. For those facing specific challenges, a variety of experts and advisors are available to offer targeted support.

We understand the importance of building the right marriage and having the right synergy with all-female co-founders, including Ismahan Al-Saad and Shreya Rammohan, who are instrumental in PLAYBOOK’s success.

Having the right support system to lean on is crucial, as is acknowledging the duality of our roles in both personal and professional spheres. This balanced approach ensures that our members can keep pace with the evolving world while maintaining a supportive network to navigate their unique challenges. Recently, we’ve been exploring financial independence and literacy space, recognizing its significant potential. By fostering a community where women can learn from industry leaders and each other, PLAYBOOK is actively contributing to the development of the next generation of female executives.

The evolving landscape for women entrepreneurs

You’ve been part of the entrepreneurial scene for quite some time. How has the landscape for women entrepreneurs evolved during your career? Are there changes you’re particularly excited about or concerned about?

The landscape for women entrepreneurs has evolved positively during my career. There is now greater recognition of the value women bring to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Growing up, I had few female role models from the Middle East and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Today, the abundance of opportunities and the positive industry shift excite me.

However, the limited capital available to female-founded startups remains a concern. Only 2.3% of venture capital funding goes to all-female founding teams, and 10% to mixed-gender teams.

Addressing this, PLAYBOOK’s acquisition of Women Spark aims to provide necessary resources and networks in the Middle East, enhancing women’s participation in angel investing and entrepreneurial growth. This strategic move establishes PLAYBOOK as the region’s largest network of female angel investors, pioneering programs for female founders and investors to foster innovation and career growth.

Emerging trends in technology and business

What emerging trends in technology and business are you watching closely right now? How do you anticipate they will impact entrepreneurship in MENA?

One of the most exciting trends is the rise of artificial intelligence and its applications in various business processes. AI has the potential to revolutionize how businesses operate, from customer service to data analysis, making them more efficient and customer-centric.

At PLAYBOOK, we use AI to offer personalized learning and career resources, aiming to close the gender gap.

Wafa AlObaidat, Playbook

Another significant trend is the increasing importance of sustainability and social responsibility, driving businesses towards more sustainable practices. In MENA, the surge in tech startups and focus on sustainable development are likely to lead to innovative business models and opportunities for entrepreneurs, particularly women, to effect positive change.

Future Developments for PLAYBOOK

Looking forward, what are some exciting developments or plans for PLAYBOOK?

We are continuously evolving and seeking new ways to support our members. An exciting development is the expansion of our masterclass library to include more content from global industry leaders and the enhancement of our AI-driven personalized learning experiences.

Recognized as the #1 startup in the EMEA region, we are motivated to expand our global presence, aiming to extend our reach to Asia, Australia, and the USA, and partner with leading organizations. This expansion will allow us to bring PLAYBOOK’s unique offerings to more women worldwide.

Additionally, we are focusing on financial well-being, scaling our platform, and leveraging AI. In 2023, the proportion of U.S. venture funding for startups with at least one female co-founder reached a new peak, indicating the potential of AI-driven initiatives to enhance diversity and efficiency in business.

As we expand in the EMEA region, we remain committed to advocating for women’s leadership and navigating the evolving entrepreneurial landscape, promising a bright future for women in business globally.

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