How (And Why) Businesses Should Champion Inclusive Growth
Insights from the latest installment of Entrepreneur Middle East Round Table, presented by du.
Moderated by Entrepreneur Middle East Editor in Chief Aby Sam Thomas, the discussion welcomed insights from Dr. Alia Al Serkal, Vice President, People Learning and Growth, du; Callie Dickens, founder and CEO, Symmetry; Seza Vaziri, GE’s Women’s Network Leader for MENAT, and founder and CEO of Kandoo; Meher Mirchandani, Director, Manrre REIT; Mona Ataya, founder and CEO, Mumzworld; Kindah Sais, Global Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leader for Middle East, Boeing; Mansoor Habib, Head of Happiness & Tolerance, du; Jennifer Gonzalez, Manager - Partner Management, ICT, du; Noora Al Mansoori, Director Corporate Communications, du; Rana Hajr, Head of Consumer Services Governance & Planning, du; Aisha Rawert, Director - Organization, Capabilities and Performance, du; Dr. Raffaella Bianchi, Head of Consumer Experience, du; and Mona Gulaid, Senior Manager Enterprise Process Management, du.
Here are few vital points that were discussed on how entities in the Middle East, whether from the corporate or the startup world, can put in place initiatives and practices to enable a more equitable playing field for women in the workplace.
1. Set out to hire female leaders
Mona Ataya, founder and CEO of Mumzworld, pointed out that statistics indicate that both regionally and globally, there is still a prevalent glass ceiling for women. As an entrepreneur, in the early days of building Mumzworld, Ataya says that they set out to attract women leaders, hiring them for roles like head of technology, head of inbound logistics, etc.
“Women supporting women has been our approach and our particular strategy, and it has led us to where we are today,” she said. Though there are limitations to this approach, and while and it has proven to be more difficult and time-consuming, Ataya noted that she “set out with the mindset that you are only as good as the effort you put out, and that mindset has kind of blinded me to the limitations.
2. Pay it forward (always)
Seza Vaziri, GE’s Women’s Network Leader for MENAT, and founder and CEO of Kandoo, recalled how when she first started her career, it was a common sight to be the only woman in a room. However, she thought herself to be lucky in this regard, as she had the privilege to have been able to work with companies that strived to be inclusive.
“My experience actually made me become a person to help others, because I know that’s not the reality,” Vaziri said. She went on to point out how for certain industries, such as the energy, or oil and gas sector, it’s essential to be a catalyst for growth in everyday situations, be it through including women to vital conversations, and giving them a fair chance at promotions and climbing up the career ladder.
3. Use data to drive decisions
Callie Dickens, founder and CEO, Symmetry, said that just because the end goal is equality, that doesn’t necessarily mean treating everybody equally, because every person would have their own set of advantages and shortcomings. The process should thus instead be about ensuring that every person has access to all of the opportunities, which can be evaluated with previous research and data.
“Through understanding that historically women have been at a disadvantage, we’re now able to change that through data,” Dickens said. Dr. Raffaella Bianchi, Head of Consumer Experience, du, agreed with Dickens, noting the significance of research data to showcase the existing gender gap in companies by highlighting the stark reality. “It’s an eyeopener for us, [showing us that] we do have an opportunity to improve, and we need to do something.”
4. Ensure growth for everyone
Kindah Sais, Global Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leader for Middle East, Boeing, stressed on the importance of inclusivity, not just for women, but for men and other minorities as well, such as people with disabilities, women of color, etc., especially when you consider your company’s target market. “We [need] to have employees reflect the diversity of our customers, so we can know how to target them,” Sais said.
“[As a company], we need to get to the whole population, so, we say it’s the role of men to champion women and every minority in the company, and vice versa… We try to push for an inclusive culture, rather than focusing only on one segment or minority.” Dr. Alia Al Serkal, Vice President, People Learning and Growth, du, added, “Not every man is a family man or father, not every woman is a mother. At the end of the day, it’s about equality, making sure everyone has equal opportunities, regardless of their background.”
5. Normalize flexible roles in relationships
On a cultural level, Meher Mirchandani, Director, Manrre REIT, explains that it’s often imposed on women to take on the responsibility when it comes to taking care of their children, and sometimes even their parents and in-laws. This can be changed, she said, if we, as a community, make it normal for partners in a relationship to share duties and tasks.
“The education needs to be given that we’re in it together,” Mirchandani said. “The more men see other men understanding and respecting their partners, whether that’s her working, studying, or pursuing her goals, I think, that’s when the difference will come.”
A list of all of the participants in this edition of the Entrepreneur Middle East Round Table presented by du
Dr. Alia Al Serkal Vice President, People Learning and Growth, du
Callie Dickens Founder and CEO, Symmetry
Seza Vaziri GE’s Women’s Network Leader for MENAT, and founder and CEO of Kandoo
Meher Mirchandani Director, Manrre REIT
Mona Ataya Founder and CEO, Mumzworld
Kindah Sais Global Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leader for Middle East, Boeing
Dr. Mansoor Habib Head of Happiness and Tolerance, du
Jennifer Gonzalez Manager - Partner Management, ICT, du
Noora Al Mansoori Director, Corporate Communications, du
Rana Hajr Head of Consumer Services Governance and Planning, du
Aisha Rawert Director - Organization, Capabilities, and Performance, du
Dr. Raffaella Bianchi Head of Consumer Experience, du
Mona Gulaid Senior Manager, Enterprise Process Management, du
Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.