International Women's Day: breaking down barriers in industry
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International Women’s Day: breaking down barriers in industry

International Women’s Day: breaking down barriers in industry

How women can thrive in traditionally inhospitable sectors

Although progress has been made in various sectors, women remain massively underrepresented in certain industries, particularly in managerial positions.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, concerted efforts are necessary to break barriers that hold women back.

The energy sector, especially oil and gas, has traditionally been vastly male-dominated. As the industry shifts towards renewable energy, there’s an opportunity to incorporate diversity in the industry.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says “a clean energy transition will require innovative solutions and business models to be adopted and greater participation from a diverse talent pool.”

Florence Fontani, EVP for Strategy, Communications, ESR for the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and Turkey for energy company Engie says women can bring a different look and new perspectives to an industry that has long seemed impervious to inclusivity.

“Diversity is, therefore, the key to a successful transformation of the energy sector, as moving to decarbonised economies through innovations will only be possible thanks to the work and the knowledge of all talents, regardless of their gender,” says Fontani.

Read: UAE President issues decree for private sector to pay equal salaries to men and women

Many studies have shown the benefits of hiring more female employees in the energy sector and companies in general. They show that more female employees in a workplace mean more job satisfaction, more organisational dedication, more meaningful work, and fewer burnouts. Several reports also show that companies with a higher representation of women in their top management tend to be more profitable. “Involving more women in the energy industry would therefore be beneficial on all fronts,” says Fontani.

Fortunately, the clean energy sector has proved attractive to women. “As this industry is now booming, it is vital for companies in the energy industry to focus on hiring more women to give them opportunities to contribute to the transformation of our sector,” says Fontani.

Gender bias
Hassan Bouadar, vice president Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion Council Lead, FedEx Express Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa says there are now numerous opportunities to break gender bias and end inequality in the workplace. “Small strides by companies in this direction can make a huge difference in our economies and communities.”

“The key is to understand our own biases, create a safe workplace environment for everyone, and provide opportunities for team members regardless of their gender,” Bouadar adds.

The question of gender parity is prevalent across many sectors, and logistics is no exception. Hind Saad, chief operating officer at Agility, Middle East and Africa says many women have traditionally been put off by the logistics industry, viewing it as labour-intensive and operations-focused. In reality, the industry today is all about people and people skills, Saad says. “Logistics is a service-focused industry, and having a diverse, qualified workforce is a prerequisite to a company’s success.”

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

The first step to greater diversity is to change this perception of the industry. More women need to view logistics as a viable career option, says Saad. “You start by creating a company culture that embraces gender diversity and champions the advancement of women. That means not just hiring women but also ensuring that talent is retained, via training and career-enhancement programs. It’s also important to recognise the importance of flexible working options, maternity/paternity leaves, and a culture that values work-life balance.”

“Ultimately, the industry needs women in leadership positions where they can be strong role models and inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps,” Saad says.

There is a real pool of female talent that remains untapped, especially in the Middle East. In the GCC, there is a clear interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses for female students. In Qatar and Oman for example, women account for most graduates in engineering schools.

Yet in the oil and gas industry, women continue to work mostly in administrative or support functions (communications, legal, HR etc.) and remain insufficiently represented in technical positions or on the field. “It is, therefore, necessary to show young girls that women can pursue successful careers in technical fields,” Fontani says.

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