One day after it was reported that Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz was ousted from her position as the first editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia after just two issues, Condé Nast announced that Manuel Arnaut will take over her position.
Unlike the appointment of Edward Enninful to helm British Vogue earlier this week, which was met with widespread praise from the industry, the replacement of Abdulaziz has received mixed sentiments. Several people took to social media to air frustrations with a male representing the publication, in a region where women’s rights and voices have long been stifled. Arnaut — who formerly led Architectural Digest Middle East and worked at Vogue Portugal and GQ Portugal — is now the third male named to a Vogue title in recent months. Along with Enninful, he joins Emanuele Farneti who runs Vogue Italia. Some say it reflects the difficulties for women, particularly women of color, to ascend to leadership roles at major publications.
The transition is particularly fraught, given that Abdulaziz has since spoken out in a public statement to explain that her departure was a result of failing to see eye-to-eye with publisher Shashi Menon. Neither Condé Nast International nor Menon were available for comment on this story.
“I refused to compromise when I felt the publisher’s approach conflicted with the values which underpin our readers and the role of the editor-in-chief in meeting those values in a truly authentic way,” Abdulaziz told Business of Fashion. “I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in such a short space of time… It had initially been my intention to build this important and groundbreaking edition of Vogue from inception to a mature magazine in line with others in the Vogue stable.”
Condé Nast announced it would be expanding into the Middle Eastern market last year, with Abdulaziz leading a team of 20 reporters based in Dubai. At the time, Menon told Glossy the area is “one of the misunderstood regions in the world.” The Middle East remains a growing place of interest for luxury retailers and publications, as fashion brands expand their presence in a market that was estimated to be worth more than $276 billion last year.
According to data from Brandwatch, as of noon on Friday, there were just shy of 200 mentions of the story on Twitter, with most of the discussion centering on Abdulaziz’s shortly curtailed tenure. Others stated that the change could be a positive change for the new publication.
Better to have no Vogue Arabia than to have an unfit EIC. We are new to the market. We want to be correctly represented. @CondeNast
— heba (@hasulaiman) April 14, 2017
Another Vogue has another man at the helm: Manuel Arnaut named EIC of Vogue Arabia. Will he understand the women of this market?
— Vanessa Friedman (@VVFriedman) April 14, 2017
— علي البناء (@AliSylviaAlbana) April 11, 2017
Change is good https://t.co/CnSWrTZud8
— Kelly Iacovone (@ciaociao27) April 14, 2017
“Change is good for Vogue U.K., as Alexandra Schulman has reigned for 25 years. I hope that Vogue U.S. will change soon,” London-based public relations consultant Kelly Lacovone wrote in an email. “As for Vogue Arabia, was it a case of a powerful and talented woman that was not allowed to flourish in a male-dominated society?”
According to the Women’s Media Center, an organization that examines bylines across twenty leading newspapers, men receive 62 percent of bylines, while women receive 38 percent. Though this data did not examine the Condé Nast publications, it’s telling of a continued dearth of female voices in journalism.
Further data from the American Society of News Editors 2016 census found that, of all supervisors across 737 news organizations — including 646 newspapers and 91 digital-only sites — 13 percent are minorities and 37 percent are women. In Saudi Arabia, a culture in which women are given little autonomy and independence, the challenge of women ascending to leadership positions is even more difficult. In October 2016, the New York Times shot a documentary of the first election in Saudi Arabia open to women, a film that elicited 6,000 responses from Saudi women sharing accounts of subjugation.
“The numbers seem to be moving in the right direction, but the pace of diversity needs to quicken to catch up with the population,” ASNE President Pam Fine said in the report. “We must ask ourselves how we can do a better job of inspiring people of color and women to go into the profession, hire them at good wages, and give them opportunities to influence coverage and advance through the ranks. “