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Pearl Initiative and NAMA Call for a Business-First Approach

The Pearl Initiative, the business-led non-profit organisation promoting a culture of corporate transparency and accountability in the Gulf Region, organised a series of one-day workshops recently in partnership with NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), to discuss ways in which Gulf Region businesses should support its women employees for organisational success.

Titled ‘Making the Business Case for Diversity’, two one-day workshops were held at The Executive Office of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi in Sharjah, UAE, and the Movenpick Hotel and Resort Al Bida’a in Kuwait in the presence of industry leaders, experts in the field of diversity training, consulting, HR professionals, and employees representing all sectors of the region’s economy.

The workshops were designed using the research undertaken by Pearl Initiative and NAMA in 2019 that examined factors that continue to hinder and facilitate women’s career success, and to build up strategic solutions to create a supportive environment for women in the regional workforce.

The first session of the one-day workshop touched upon the landscape of gender diversity in the Gulf Region, where diversity in businesses was assessed across the region and globally, and delved into the social and economic factors hindering women’s workforce engagement and participation while also calling for developing a holistic framework to design practical solutions to support women in the workforce.

The second session focused on building inclusive businesses and employees. It provided insights into the utility of various diversity-focused policies, addressed unconscious biases in workplaces, and presented local and regional case studies demonstrating the business value of gender diversity. The second session also featured experts on diversity and inclusion from PwC Kuwait, who introduced the policies and structures implemented by the organisation to implement and entrench inclusion for all employees.

In a statement, HE Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said: “Investing in gender inclusion empowers businesses to thoughtfully implement policies that create the culture shift required for meaningful results. Women have the talent, drive and knowledge, and it is imperative to create awareness amongst organisations of the tremendous benefits derived from fostering a culture of inclusion. Creating equity and removing bias in executive decisions and policies can open the floodgates for women to enter and advance in leadership positions, empowering them to contribute substantially to the business.”

Sherif Shawki, Managing Partner at PwC Kuwait, said: “At PwC Middle East, we are focused on creating an inclusive culture in which we embrace diversity. During the workshop, we shared the various efforts that we have undertaken to drive Diversity and Inclusion including #IamRemarkable sessions, a Google initiative which strives to empower women and underrepresented groups to speak openly on their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond. In addition, we’ve partnered with the UN Women’s HeForShe initiative committed to the United Nations Global Solidarity movement, engaging men as advocates of change for gender equality and driving action for better balance in the workplace across the Middle East. Diversity & Inclusion is integral to the firm’s purpose at PwC; driving transparency, raising awareness and investment in diversity and inclusion within the Middle East.”

Commenting on the success of the workshops, Yasmine Omari, Executive Director of the Pearl Initiative, stated: “The potential benefits of inclusivity in business are overwhelmingly compelling, especially when exploring the influence of gender. However, a direct analysis of the opinions and experiences of women in the workforce, as evidenced from our 2019 survey, point to the fact that there is still a long way to go for businesses to support women employees, their careers, and their ambitions. The survey also revealed that gaps exist in the implementation of policies and procedures that could facilitate women’s career successes.”

She continued: “Part of our 2020 agenda is to utilise our ‘Diversity in Business Leadership’ programme to explore new and effective ways of influencing and driving institutional change through impactful leadership development solutions. Our aim is to offer organisations across the Gulf Region direct access to the tools required for developing diversity in business practices, which ultimately boost their productivity, innovation and revenue growth. The strategic goals of our workshops were to offer constructive solutions to build inclusive and welcoming workplaces for female employees, and to strengthen businesses by cultivating competencies and benchmarks to support their workplace advancement.”

International consultant Dr. Melissa Langworthy, a feminist economist whose work focuses on building better options for women in the contemporary Gulf Region through economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, facilitated the workshops.

“Women thrive when they work in an ecosystem that values their diverse talents and maximizes their opportunities,” said Dr. Langworthy. “Gulf businesses equipped with D&I strategies tailored to the regional economy can amplify this value within their workplaces and communities.”

Founded in 2010, the Pearl Initiative is a Gulf business-led non-profit organisation promoting a corporate culture of accountability and transparency as key drivers of competitiveness and sustainable economic growth across the Gulf Region. The organisation develops programmes and publishes regional research reports and case studies to promote the implementation of higher standards of corporate governance amongst business and student communities across the Gulf Region.

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