Women in business: Diversity, equity and inclusion at the workplace
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Women in business: Diversity, equity and inclusion at the workplace

Women in business: Diversity, equity and inclusion at the workplace

The HR director of Veolia Middle East says human resources teams have to lead the way to promote gender equality and foster inclusivity in the company

Global efforts to advance gender equality and diversity represent an opportunity for the corporate community to be a catalyst for social cohesion and an integral partner to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality and protect the planet.

But progress towards that inclusive future has been hesitant and halting.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress. A McKinsey analysis estimated that while women represent 39 per cent of the global workforce, they accounted for 54 per cent of job losses as of 2020.

Despite this, women have made important gains in representation in the region and around the world, and companies are stepping up to support employee well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts with a wide variety of tools and strategies.

It is time to recognise the body of work that such path-breaking companies are doing and emulate their best practices to empower women – for such a process will help identify the challenges, highlight the enablers and share successful strategies to build a sustainable tomorrow.

Triple pillars of equality

Dynamic regulatory frameworks have been a driving force towards increasing gender diversity within several companies, with a laser focus on the triple pillars of equality: equality of treatment, equality of opportunities, and equality of promotion.

The adoption of these pillars must begin with the human resources team, who need to work to instill a hardwired culture of gender equality into the company, foster inclusivity, and provide truly equal opportunities in recruitment policies and talent development programmes.

For instance, it is entirely possible for operations and talent acquisition teams to proactively identify positions where skilled female candidates are more likely to be selected depending on the key sectors. In the case of a STEM-oriented (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) company, this could be in quality, health, safety and environment management, or QHSE, lab technicians, control room operations, process engineering, support functions and operations management.

This proactive focus must be complemented by a framework of non-negotiable practices in equality and diversity, such as guaranteeing fairness and non-discrimination in all processes such as recruitment, internal mobility, remuneration and dismissal and promoting inclusion.

Delivering sustainable solutions

In the UAE, which has consistently ranked first in the Arab world (2020, 2021) in the Gender Equality Index of the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report, and 18th globally in 2020, efforts to advance DEI initiatives have gained added momentum.

The UAE also topped the MENA region in the Women, Business and the Law 2021 report issued by the World Bank, and a partnership between the UAE Gender Balance Council and 17 multinational and local companies has voluntarily committed to a target of women in 30 per cent of senior and middle management roles by 2025.

Against this backdrop, and on the eve of the publication of the UAE Gender Balance Strategy for the next 50 years in March, now is a great moment to celebrate the efforts of companies and communities that are driving the UAE’s global standing as a benchmark for gender balance.

Transition to low-carbon economies

Companies can certainly benefit from a deeply vested interest in investing in DEI as well. A recent World Bank study found that engaging and empowering women not only helps companies better serve their customers, but also facilitates the transition to low-carbon economies, improves resource use, lowers environmental damage and increases resilience.

The path forward, therefore, is clear. The diversity of thought and experience that women bring to professions and leadership is priceless, and companies need to take bold steps to make DEI a key part of their DNA for a profitable and sustainable tomorrow.

They need to recognise and reward the women leaders who are driving progress, dig deep to create a workplace where all women feel valued, and find innovative solutions to help women unleash their human capital and become leaders of change for green, resilient, and inclusive development.

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