Accenture commits to more women in UAE leadership positions

22 February 2023 4 min. read

The UAE is making serious progress on gender equality with a focus on private sector partners. Accenture is among the latest companies to sign a pledge to improve female leadership ratios.

The Middle East branch of professional services firm Accenture has pledged to accelerate greater gender balance in the UAE in line with the UN’s fifth sustainable development goal, which encourages an increase in the ratio of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2025.

Accenture signed the pledge alongside more than a dozen multinational companies, including Boeing and Raytheon, which are all members of AmCham Abu Dhabi.

Accenture commits to more women in UAE leadership positions

Formulated in 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an international blueprint of 17 interlinked objectives aimed at creating “peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and into the future”, covering areas such as the elimination of poverty, the provision of education, and the promotion of responsible production and consumption. The fifth goal outlines steps to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030.

Unfortunately, recent events have seen setbacks in efforts toward gender equality, in particular in terms of education and workforce participation. In its latest progress report, the UN writes: “The world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 and has been pushed further off track by the socioeconomic fallout of the pandemic. Women and girls remain disproportionately affected, struggling with lost jobs and livelihoods and derailed education.”

According to the UN’s statistics, women made up just under 40 percent of the global workforce prior to the pandemic, but accounted for 45 percent of the subsequent job losses, with those remaining in employment lumped with additional unpaid domestic care burdens. One factor has been the only marginal improvement in the share of women in managerial positions over the past two decades, up from 25 percent in 2000 to just 28 percent twenty years later.

Another broader issue, at the global level, is the ongoing lack of government instruments and reporting mechanisms to measure progress. The UAE however has been an international leader in pursuing the sustainable development goals with transparency, including via the establishment of a dedicated Gender Balance Council (UAE GBC) specifically for SDG 5.

In a voluntary national review conducted last year, the UAE outlined its launch of its 2026 national Gender Balance Strategy.

Accenture’s pledge

It’s against this backdrop that Accenture and a host of other companies (including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon) have become the latest signatories to the Pledge to Accelerate Women’s Leadership in the UAE Private Sector.

There are five key elements to the pledge; promoting gender-equitable recruitment and promotion; ensuring equal pay and fair compensation, fostering a culture that encourages all employees to achieve their full potential; and mainstreaming gender balance through company policies and programs.

Nadya Abdulla Kamali, Country Managing Director for UAE, Accenture

The fifth element concerns transparency about progress, both with the government and the other companies involved in the pledge, which to date numbers above 50 across numerous sectors, including Kearney and KPMG as other participants from the consulting realm. As part of the program, these companies are encouraged to participate in whole-group workshops and work closely together in sharing internal best practices, challenges, and creative policy solutions.

One such meeting recently took place at the World Economic Forum in Davos, of which UAE GBC president Sheikha Manal bint Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum said: “Strategic partnerships between the government and the private sector are vital for achieving national goals at all levels. The inspiring UAE private sector pledge to accelerate the 5th SDG and enhance gender balance is a model for the region and the world.”

Accenture may have one small advantage to support it in its efforts to increase female representation in middle and senior leadership – the professional services firm’s UAE practice is led by Nadya Abdulla Kamali, with Middle East senior managing director Alexis Lecanuet stating at the time of her appointment. “We are delighted to have Nadya on board and look forward to sharpening our focus on female leadership development and empowerment,” said Lecanuet.