Greater gender diversity an economic advantage


Organisations need to take immediate steps to improve diversity and correct any gender imbalance already present in the workplace, lest they leave themselves at a major economic disadvantage, experts at the Global Women In Leadership Economic Forum (Global WIL) said.

Sylvia Metayer, CEO for corporate services worldwide at Sodexo, noted that while the situation had vastly improved over the past couple of years, many organisations were still putting themselves at a “strategic weakness” by not improving the number of women working for them.

“Plain common sense tells us that at a time when all organisations are fighting for talent, it seems silly to cut yourself off from 50 per cent of it; or more, if you consider that 60 per cent of college graduates are women,” she said at the forum. “Secondly, 70 per cent of all consumer buying decisions are made by women, and so it would make sense to mirror that in how products get designed, made, and sold; think of the smart women financial advisors who found the way to tap into the market of women investors that men had overlooked.”

She also stressed that there was lots of concrete proof that gender balance contributes to better business. “A study run by Catalyst found that a 10 per cent increase in women on the board correlates to a 21 per cent increase in women in executive positions. This in turn leads to return on equity, return on sales, and return on invested capital.”

The event also saw the launch of the UAE Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Survey Report, which revealed that diversity and inclusion appears to be a clear strategic priority for more than half of UAE organisations. Commissioned by international law firm Winston & Strawn, in conjunction with the Global WIL Forum and conducted by YouGov, the survey results showed that 57 per cent of respondents describe workforce diversity as a top priority where they work.

Overall, 61 per cent of respondents agreed that women are well represented in management at their organisation, with women (69 per cent) notably more positive than men (54 per cent) about the level of female representation in management. The survey also found that 74 per cent of women in the UAE workforce aspire to senior leadership roles within their organisations (versus 66 per cent of males), while 62 per cent were happy about their opportunities for advancement.

However, there are clear opportunities for improvement, with 24 per cent of women also believing their gender would make it harder for them to advance their career – compared to just 17 per cent of men.

Sophie Le Ray, CEO of Naseba and founder of the WIL Economic Forum, said: “The survey results demonstrate that women want to take on leadership roles, and organisations that successfully harness this desire can improve their chances of securing fresh leadership talent as well as the new ideas and perspectives that they bring with them.”

“According to the World Economic Forum, it will take 217 years to bridge the gender gap if we continue at this rate of progress. This is not okay for me or any one of us that wants to see a fair inclusive world harnessing the potential of every single person. I dream and I promise to strive with our fellow sisters and brothers to create a gender blind and gender agnostic view to achieving a balanced and more progressive world for the benefit of all,” said Alisha Moopen, executive director and CEO for hospitals and clinics in the GCC at Aster DM Healthcare.



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