WILD - Women in Leadership Deliver is a platform aimed at supporting women to become powerful leaders. Emma Burdett, Founder and CEO of WILD walks Communicate through her personal and professional journey in bringing this movement to life.
Reminiscing the blue butterfly that guided her to the light when she felt like she’d hit rock bottom, Emma Burdett, a life coach and gender equity specialist said, “We are often stuck in the hamster wheel of life – where we get up and keep living life on repeat in the chaos of our own world. It was only when we were forced to be in confinement of our homes, we had the time to think and reflect.” Burdett wrote the vision for WILD on a piece of paper, 5 years ago, based on her core values of authenticity, expression, equality, and freedom. She build her business on the side while pursuing a full-time job and her qualification in Gender Equity from INSEAD. “I built WILD from a rock bottom moment with just $300, and, today, we are the fastest growing women’s network in the MENA region, and the only one in Saudi,” she says.
In image above: Emma Burdett, Founder and CEO of WILD
The Great Break-Up
We’re seeing more women speaking against bias in the workplace and quitting or switching jobs at a higher rate than men when they don’t see their demands being fulfilled. Latest research from Bain & Company finds how despite making significant strides in empowering women in the GCC, only 7% of women occupy GCC board seats, lagging the global average of 20%. “COVID-19 was a catalyst for great reform globally, which has posed a huge challenge on organizations to attract and retain talent. I believe that there are many outdated, inflexible workplace cultures, that are still ingrained with patriarchal leadership, coupled with toxicity and bullying.”
Source: Bain & Company
According to Burdett, this is a consequence of various contributing factors. “The hustle culture radiates masculine energy, the strive to control everything is an outdated system. There is a better way of doing things. The feminine flow allows us to attract our desires, be more trusting and faithful in what the universe has to offer.” WILD focuses on enabling women to channel that feminine energy, bringing them together to find their purpose, and break through limitations and fear through life coaching to become more aware of investing in their personal growth and development. WILD has developed membership programs designed for corporate women, focusing on four essential pillars: Wellness, Leadership, Self-Leadership, and Power Skills. These programs offer a comprehensive support system to empower women in achieving a well-rounded and balanced success.
It All Starts With Awareness
Research shows that 70% of job seekers and employees consider a “diverse and inclusive workforce” as an integral factor when evaluating job offers. With that ask, the Middle East still stands low on closing its gender gap vs. its global peers. As businesses across the region, continue battling the war of talent, Burdett’s approach offers a single solution to this concern – building women’s networks. She argues that these networks provide a safe haven for women. “The issue of gender parity arises from the lack of female role models. Women’s communities enable women to open up and be themselves in an organic setting. While mentorship can feel quite contrived, networks enable women to be more vulnerable and share emotions in a realistic setting, evoking empathy and fostering a sense of belonging,” she explains.
“We perceive our movement as an educational process that begins with raising awareness,” explains Burdett. She also addresses the criticism they have received for excluding men from these initiatives. “But that’s precisely the objective; we aim to create an environment where women can freely express themselves, something they may not have been able to do in the presence of their male colleagues.”
You’ve Got to Walk The Talk
“There exists a substantial disparity between being perceived as someone who does the right thing and actively missing out. Diversity not only leads to a 35% increase in profitability but also enhances productivity and provides greater opportunities for innovation,” she adds. WILD aims to work with organizations willing to drive that positive change from the top down. “My biggest pet peeve is Women’s Day. A flimsy PR stunt most companies do once a year with pink balloons and a cake. We don’t want that, we want fair pay, we want equal opportunity, we want our fair share in decision-making powers. What are these businesses doing to drive change through the rest of the 364 days of the year? That’s the bigger picture,” concludes Burdett. embodying those principles,” says Burdett. “Fortunately, living in the UAE provides us with a blessing, building a diverse team is a relatively manageable task. But, it’s more than that. It’s about creating an inclusive environment.”
70% of top-performing teams in the GCC have a higher representation of women. While hiring women can be an initial step towards bridging the gap, it should not be the final one. Burdett emphasizes the importance of cultivating an environment that promotes psychological safety. “Many individuals today are hesitant to bring their whole selves to work, feeling voiceless or excluded, as a result, organizations are missing out. Diversity not only leads to a 35% increase in profitability but also enhances productivity and provides greater opportunities for innovation,” she adds. WILD aims to work with organizations willing to drive that positive change from top down. “My biggest pet peeve is Women’s Day. A flimsy PR stunt most companies do once a year with pink balloons and a cake. We don’t want that, we want fair pay, we want equal opportunity, we want our fair share in decision-making powers. What are these businesses doing to drive change through rest of the 364 days of the year? That’s the bigger picture,” concludes Burdett.
This piece was first published in Communicate's Women to Watch Issue 2023.