There are many things that can make a difference in one’s path to success in entrepreneurship and business, but few rival the power of education and the exchange of diverse ideas. For example, Lama Sha'sha'a Abu Dahab, the Co-founder and Chairperson of the International Robotics Academy, who won the Women in Business Award at the UN Conference on Trade and Development in 2018, discovered that the doors that opened for her through IMD’s fellowship opened a wider world.

“When I got the award, I was actually worried: Am I going to feel like this is the end, I got the award and now I will go home, and that’s it...

“On the educational level it’s an absolutely amazing journey and I have to say that having the award wasn’t as exciting as having this journey.”

Lama won the award for launching the International Robotics Academy, which runs academic tech programs for children, and she is constantly striving to change education to better help students and transform in the digital world. She found her IMD experience so beneficial that she has participated in additional programs focusing on digital transformation after her initial fellowship.

“IMD is not just the school that I go to or the courses I take. There are so many different services, whether it’s alumni clubs or the seminars, and the social innovation center is definitely something to keep an eye on because they keep creating wonderful papers and a lot of case studies we can benefit from.”

The benefit of relationships

The awards bring a unique cross-section of women from diverse backgrounds and business experiences to the public eye. The winners, who will participate in Jennifer Jordan’s “Leading in the Digital Age” program, in turn bring fresh perspectives and enthusiasm to executive education at IMD.

The fellowships focus on empowering personal growth through education not only because education opens many doors, but because it can also foster the important networks that develop in executive programs and greatly impact innovation and growth. Professor Vanina Farber, who serves as a judge of the awards, emphasizes that IMD and other participants substantially benefit by the presence of women at the forefront of global entrepreneurship.

Lama advises this year’s winners to make sure to connect with people. “This is one of the greatest values of IMD, that you get to meet with executives from different industries, and even if they are from different industries, never underestimate how much they can give you as insight.”

The 2020 Awards

The WBA Awards are given to women who have participated in the UN’s global entrepreneurship program, Empretec, and are role models due to their outstanding achievements in running micro and small businesses. The awards are a biannual event that started in 2008 to recognize female entrepreneurs for achievements in business with positive impact on their communities. The theme of this year’s award “Resilience” speaking directly to the disproportionate effect that the pandemic has imposed on female entrepreneurs.

IMD Business School is proud to continue its sponsorship of the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s Women in Business Awards, which will take place Thursday, 10 December. This year, both the 1st prize winner and the winner of the inclusive business category will receive the IMD fellowships. Through the development of case studies that feature female protagonists and academic research that examines ways to reduce the gender gap in entrepreneurship, Professor Farber said that the elea Center for Social Innovation is proud to support this award and also strives to develop the skills of female entrepreneurs, especially those engaging in impact entrepreneurship.

Professor Farber, Director of elea Center for Social Innovation, emphasizes the mutual benefits of the fellowship for the recipient, IMD and the participants in IMD’s many programs. “These entrepreneurs are absolutely inspiring, and while they take away a lot from our programs, the other program participants can learn a lot from the passion and skills of these incredible women.”

The 2020 finalists (in alphabetical order, by country) are:

·   Ms. Paula Itati de la Vega Sánchez (Argentina): Bioita « utensilios de caña », manufacturing of ecological products

·  Ms. Agda Oliver (Brazil): Meu Mecânico, Mechanical services for vehicles

·  Ms. Sandra Milena Sánchez Valenzuela (Colombia): Agencia Internacional SHARK, Digital business and marketing services

·  Ms. Ana María Villavicencio Flores (Ecuador): Finca Agroturística Don Antonio, Agrotourism and gastronomy

·  Ms. Kayan Motashaw (India): LivRite Foods, Manufacture of honey “Beelicious”

·  Ms. Afnan Kamel Ali (Jordan): Eureka Tech Academy, Education for students under 18 years old on technology, innovation, programming, and engineering

·  Ms. Sandra Anne Ghouse (Malaysia): 3E Training and Education Sdn Bhd – Soft skills and corporate training company

·  Ms. Nicoleta Hriţcu (Romania): SC Retro Food SRL and SC Cuptorul Moldovencei SRL, Manufacturing and sale of bread, cakes, and fresh pastry

·  Ms. Hadija Jabiri Pheri (Tanzania): GBRI Business Solutions Company Limited, Growing, packaging, and exporting vegetables and fruits

·  Ms. Julia Nyamahunge Omalla (Uganda): Delight Uganda Ltd, Processing, packaging and distributing popular fruit drink “Cheers”

The ceremony will be hosted virtually and can be viewed here.

IMD aims to challenge what is and inspire what could be. Playing a small part in the WBA Awards and engaging in the professional development of talented female entrepreneurs is exactly the type of collaboration that we believe can support more inclusive, innovative and robust business models and positively influence society, said Professor Farber.