Here's how MENA organisations can tip the gender scale to accelerate progress
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Here’s how MENA organisations can tip the gender scale to accelerate progress

Here’s how MENA organisations can tip the gender scale to accelerate progress

Businesses must focus on better hiring policies, promote equitable progress and provide leadership support

In the Arab world, women are on average more highly educated than men and yet three out of four Arab women remain outside the workforce.

Given this insight about talent availability, closing the gender gap should be a low hanging fruit. However, in practice it has proven far more difficult than many anticipated. The barriers to ushering and retaining women need to be addressed on multiple fronts – recruitment, retention and inclusion. We’re doing our part at Amazon to make this happen, and although we run a business that provides all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people, even more needs to be done.

Never has this been more important. The pandemic has drastically impacted women’s roles and lives, amplifying existing challenges, while also paving the way for opportunities in new and unconventional sectors such as ours. This has led us to accelerate our efforts across the board and commit to strategies that will eventually yield scalable progress.

In order to move the needle further, business leaders must create an urgency within their organisations to commit to both incremental and long-term actions. That includes better gender-balanced talent pipelines; inclusive policies that promote equitable progress; and leadership support for frameworks that deliver sustainable results.

To deliver real progress, we need to look at improving the now, while putting the right structures in place for the future. Igniting organisational change in the below areas will help us all accelerate towards better organisations that better serve our employees, customers, and our communities:

1) Level the playing field: Committing to a diverse workforce begins at the recruitment phase. Businesses operating in non-traditional sectors have to go the extra mile to proactively source a gender-balanced pool of candidates and create the right environment for an optimum candidate slate. At Amazon, our recruitment process includes ‘diversathons’ to identify women candidates; talent acquisition systems that widen our candidate slate; and gender balanced hiring panels to mitigate unconscious bias.

2) Design systems that are future-proof: Bringing women into the workforce is not worth much if we cannot empower them. Having a framework of policies and processes in place to remove any conscious or unconscious bias is an integral part of ensuring an equitable, safe, and inclusive work environment for all employees.

3) Drive inclusive progress: Diverse leaders attract and retain diverse talent. Opportunities for women employees to develop and grow as leaders and access long-term career paths are paramount for progress. While tried-and-true HR practices like mentorship and leadership development programmes, internal conferences and learning opportunities are vital in the short term, setting realistic targets and tracking consistent progress towards inclusion is equally important to ensure long-term impact.

Despite a genuine will by companies in our region to implement productive gender diversity strategies, immediate business priorities can often blur our focus, impacting our outcomes. Therefore, it’s imperative that we design our programs with a desired diverse future state in mind. The road ahead is not without challenges. However, the benefits of diversity are so highly impactful that the challenges are worth our commitment, attention, and investment.

Jonathan Ballinger, HR director, MENA Operations at Amazon

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