Saudi-Scandinavian event highlights importance of diversity and inclusiveness

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Guests at SASA Cross Cultural Dialogue in Riyadh (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanem)
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Heyla Selim speaking at Cross Cultural Dialogue organized by SASA in Riyadh (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanem)
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Guests at SASA Cross Cultural Dialogue in Riyadh (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanem)
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Guests at SASA Cross Cultural Dialogue in Riyadh (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanem)
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Heyla Selim speaking at Cross Cultural Dialogue organized by SASA in Riyadh. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanem)
Updated 09 October 2019

Saudi-Scandinavian event highlights importance of diversity and inclusiveness

  • Heyla Selim: Saudi Arabia is undergoing a process of transformation in a variety of fields, which presents an opportunity to interact with people from a diverse range of cultures

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Scandinavian Association on Monday hosted an evening of cross-cultural dialogue titled “Why the caged bird sings; a story of self, a story of all.”
Keynote speaker Heyla Selim, a professor of social and cultural psychology at King Saud University, highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusiveness in society, and explored the use of social media in the formation of identity and integration. Using her own experiences as an example, she told how studying abroad and subsequently traveling the world helped her to realize the value of cultural diversity.
“We look different, we eat different foods, we wear different clothes, we talk different languages, we practice different culture — and yet when it comes to basic values of life, how similar we are,” she told Arab News on the sidelines of the event. “We are living in a global village and should learn to respect shared values and ideas, because with diversity comes richness and inclusiveness.”
Referring to the ongoing Vision 2030 reforms in Saudi Arabia, she said the Kingdom is undergoing a process of transformation in a variety of fields, which presents an opportunity to interact with people from a diverse range of cultures. She also raised the question of identity and the difficulty in defining people in a changing world, and discussed the influence of modern technology, in the form of social media, with a focus on the changes in the Kingdom.
The event was opened by Marie Louise Sodemann, chairwoman of the executive committee at SASA, a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization for Saudis and Scandinavians. She said that its mission is to create opportunities for the exchange of values and ideas, to help build cross-cultural bridges of friendship between individuals and groups.
Ibrahim Azizi, a member of SASA’s executive committee, said: “We have gathered to learn more about each other, about the two worlds we live in, the ways we think, and because we believe in the power of dialogue. It is an opportunity to come together and learn from each other by sharing experiences.”
The attendees were also given a chance to share their own experiences, stories, opinions, memories and interests during a round-table discussion, which was followed by a reception during which food was served that reflected the theme of cultural diversity.


Dr. Lilak Al-Safadi, president of the Saudi Electronic University

Updated 05 July 2020

Dr. Lilak Al-Safadi, president of the Saudi Electronic University

Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh recently announced the appointment of Dr. Lilak Al-Safadi as president of the Saudi Electronic University. She becomes the first woman to chair a Saudi university that includes both male and female students.

She has worked as executive director for more than 20 years in business development, business consulting and strategic leadership, and accumulated experience in project management.

She has also published more than 50 research papers and articles on research topics such as e-commerce and artificial and commercial intelligence.

Al-Safadi was the vice president and national technology officer at Microsoft and is a faculty member at the King Saud University, Riyadh.

She also worked as a consultant to the governor of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monshaat), and a consultant to the vice presidency for planning, quality and development at the Saudi Electronic University. 

Al-Safadi is a graduate from the University of Wollongong, Australia with a Ph.D. in computer science which she completed in 2002; she majored in software engineering and completed her master’s in computer science in 1995. 

In a telephone interview with Al-Ekhbariya channel, Al-Safadi said that her appointment had many implications not only for empowering women and enhancing their role, but also as an indication of the Kingdom’s commitment to women’s equity at all levels, including equal opportunities in leadership and competition.