Do you know that the most dangerous mega city in the world for women is Cairo? Not Delhi or Mexico City. Cairo! According to a 2013 study by the UN, 99% of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed.” Less than an hour into a conversation with Rana Nawas, she is rattling through shocking statistics. For Nawas – who was born in England to a Palestinian father and Lebanese mother – knowing such facts is now part of her job as an unofficial campaigner for women’s rights in the Middle East and beyond through her podcast, ‘When Women Win’. “Female role models from around the world share their inspirational stories and practical tools and strategies they used to succeed,” she explains. The podcast is currently the most downloaded one in the Middle East and, from May 19, became available on all Emirates flights. Pretty impressive for something that started as a passion project.
Originally published in the May 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia
Nawas spent a decade as senior vice president at GE Capital, is the co-founder of Ellevate Dubai, a platform for professional women, and consults companies on gender equality in the workplace. She realized that younger business women all over the world lacked access to female role models and, after reaching out to Harvard professor Iris Bohnet for an interview, she decided to launch ‘When Women Win’. “I think I only heard about podcasts the day before my interview with Iris and suddenly I realized, I’d better start one and interview more people!” she laughs.
‘When Women Win’ has since released more than 50 episodes – but within a month of its launch, Nawas was diagnosed with cancer. “It was a shock,” she says. “I had to decide whether to keep the podcast going or not, but the feedback from the early episodes was so positive that I chose to stay the course.” By the end of season one, she had reached number one on iTunes Middle East, with people listening in 144 countries.
With her cancer now in remission, Nawas continues her work to help prevent sexism, promote women, and highlight female achievements that often go unnoticed. Her podcast offers interviews with a diverse lineup of entrepreneurs and inspiring women including parenting YouTuber Kristina Kuzmic, Emirati poet Afra Atiq, HRH Princess Tessy Antony of Luxembourg, and activist Dr. Auma Obama. “My aim is to impact millions of women and men all over the world,” Nawas says. She’s currently working on spreading across English-speaking markets, with Australia at the top of her list. “I’d like every English speaking professional to listen to ‘When Women Win’ because the women I interview have so much experience, perspective, and insight that everybody stands to benefit.”