Ross Professors Were Teaching Saudi Women When They Heard Their Country Would Allow Women to Drive


“There was spontaneous celebration in the classroom the next morning. They were truly thrilled about this change.”

That’s how Melanie Weaver Barnett, chief Executive Education officer for Michigan Ross, describes the atmosphere in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, earlier this month when news broke that Saudi women would be permitted to drive in the country — an overturn of a longstanding, globally controversial law.

The news came while Ross Executive Education faculty were running a leadership development program for 32 high-potential leaders of Saudi Telecom Company, or STC, the largest provider of internet and mobile services in the country. Five of the participants were women.

“The women in the program were truly thrilled about this change, but some of the most enthusiastic celebrations were coming from the men,” Weaver Barnett said, recounting the event.

After the announcement, Weaver Barnett said there were thoughtful discussions among the female participants and the CEO of the company about the opportunities for women at STC.

“This was a big deal for all the people of Saudi Arabia who envision a future of equal opportunity,” she said.

During the program, which focused on leadership development, Ross professors Paula Caproni, Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, John Branch, and Executive Education leader Weaver Barnett led program sessions about the science of success, the building blocks of creativity and innovation, and the frameworks surrounding the concept of positive organizations and positive leadership.

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