Fostering gender diversity drives greater business success and innovation
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Fostering gender diversity drives greater business success and innovation

Fostering gender diversity drives greater business success and innovation

With the advancement in workplace culture, companies are taking note of the significant contributions of their female colleagues

Gulf Business

As companies across the world come together in celebrating International Women’s Day, it is important to further our understanding and appreciation towards the role of women in the automotive and transport industries. It is no secret that the automotive industry, like several other industries, has traditionally been dominated by men, which could make the work in achieving a gender balanced workplace more challenging. However, globally and in the region, we’ve seen incredible changes and initiatives put in place to offer more equality in the workplace by engaging with employees and leaders based on their merits alone.

With the advancement in workplace culture, companies are taking note of the significant contributions of their female colleagues, as women have shown their capability to fulfill leadership roles in the automotive sector, among various industries.

But of course, International Women’s Day is about a lot more. It’s about diversity, equality, inclusion, and celebrating different perspectives. Yet, looking at where we have come through the lens of women in the workplace, there’s still so much we need to do.

It has been proven, repeatedly, that fostering gender diversity drives greater business success and innovation, given the wider perspectives and ways of working brought to the table. When we embrace diversity, we give our people the opportunity to be their full selves at work, which ultimately results in a team of healthier and happier individuals. As diverse perspectives and a dynamic team are vital to business success, we at General Motors are always looking to empower female members of our regional workforce. This is also reflected by research highlighting that leaders with diverse backgrounds and experience, have helped companies innovate more.

Building on these findings, the UAE Gender Balance Council launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5 Pledge, an initiative focused on collective efforts to accelerate gender balance by increasing the national percentage of women in leadership roles to 30 per cent.

Bringing together UAE government and private sector business leaders, the pledge served to align ambitious targets, increasing female representation in senior and middle management roles before 2025, a vision we wholeheartedly champion. There’s no doubt that women leaders are a powerful economic force, and this is perfectly exemplified by General Motors global CEO, Mary Barra, who shattered the glass ceiling when she was named first female CEO of a big-three automobile company.

Looking ahead, we also need to pave the way for the future generations of STEM talent to be able to make their mark across industries. On our end, we are leading the efforts to attain gender balance in the automotive industry by committing to a diverse equitable STEM pipeline. Our work on this front has and remains strong through collaborations with Stanford University to bring Women in Data Science, Arab Youth Center’s Technology Fellowship Program, Masdar City on Youth 4 Sustainability, GITEX High Flyers and the Global Manufacturing & Industrialization Summit’s Generation Future. Such initiatives, in addition to our own GM Africa & Middle East Hybrid Internship Program, will hearten STEM education among women and our community at large.

We see immense value in shaping the workforce of the future as they will be instrumental in the automotive industry’s efforts to bring about the future of mobility. By offering immersive, hands-on learning programmes, we are able to help young people develop a STEM identity and nurture the next generation of Arab leaders to support innovation in the region. We all have a part to play in understanding and embracing our differences, while reducing biases between genders. We need to collectively work hard to create an environment that supports all employees while recognising and respecting them as individuals and continue to do so daily.

To overcome unconscious biases, businesses need to ensure that there are regular initiatives in place to sustain and grow employees’ and co-workers’ potentials. As important is providing the right training tools to allow managers and business leaders to look beyond their own, personal unconscious biases. By implementing even small steps along the way, we can make change happen. Whether through workshops, monthly open dialogue meetings with employees and senior leaders and using corporate values and behaviours to guide our conversations, we will get there.

We are all working together toward transformation and must remain committed to creating a culture where every employee thrives. Our goal in General Motors is to become the world’s most inclusive organization, starting by building up our female leaders of tomorrow for a better future and celebrating women today, while looking back at how far we’ve come and how much we have achieved in gender balance.

Luay Al Shurafa is the president and managing director and and Monica Hernandez is the HR Director at GM Africa and Middle East

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