Companies join forces to launch diversity plan for Middle East

04 November 2019 3 min. read
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A number of high-profile firms including PwC have launched the Middle East Action for Diversity Council, a new public initiative to help close the gender gap in the region.

While last week saw a slew of international leaders gather across the border for the Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia – with the guest-list notably dominated by males – a smaller meeting also took place in the UAE over the 28th and 29th; the Women in Leadership Economic Forum, which brought together a number of high profile organisations to discuss efforts in closing the gender gap.

Hosted by investment services firm Naseba with over 400 participants attending from around the world, companies with representatives at the conference in Dubai – titled ‘Dare to Build a Better Future’ – included Facebook, Siemens, FedEx, General Motors and Emaar Hospitality, as well as Big Four professional services firm PwC, with Middle East senior territory partner Hani Ashkar among the guest panelists.

“In the past ten years, WIL Forum has connected thousands of men and women, game changers who share a similar vision for a world where the gender divide is no longer a barrier to prosperity and innovation,” said Naseba Managing Director Nick Watson. “WIL is more than an event, it's a community of people who believe in the power of connection, supporting, empowering and encouraging each other to make change."

Companies join forces to launch diversity plan for Middle EastDuring the conference, PwC together with some of the world’s leading companies took the opportunity to launch the Middle East Action for Diversity Council, described as a public commitment made by leading private sector organisations to promote the values of D&I within their Middle East operations – by working together and addressing the opportunities and challenges that come with the change.

“The MENA region is collectively losing an estimated $575 billion a year due to the legal and social barriers that exist for women’s access to jobs and careers,” Ashkar stated. “As business leaders with a deep and long-standing commitment to the region, we can play a critical role in ensuring that inclusion is core to our workplace culture and that our companies are representative of the communities we serve.”

Ashkar continued; “We recognise that these commitments are not the complete answer, but we believe they are crucial steps towards consciously building more diverse and inclusive workplaces.” This view was backed by PwC Middle East Diversity & Inclusion Leader Norma Taki, who was also present at the conference to share her personal experiences and those of PwC in driving greater corporate diversity.

“I truly believe we can move the dial on diversity by focusing on a number of key areas such as raising awareness, ensuring accountability, by mentoring/sponsorship programmes, and by linking into our external communities,” Taki said. “We have done a lot in a short amount of time, mostly by raising awareness and collecting and analysing data. We now have a strategy and we are driving hard to make a real difference.”