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Why Gender Equality And Women-Centric Policies Make Good Business Sense Having a diverse, gender-balanced, and inclusive organization is no longer an option– it is a necessity of the times.

By Veronica Juul-Nyholm

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Having a diverse, gender-balanced, and inclusive organization is no longer an option– it is a necessity of the times. Striking the right gender balance, especially across leadership roles, not only yields incredible financial benefits, but also sets the tone for a progressive organizational culture that acknowledges its customer base, values relationships, and believes in equal human rights. According to studies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the benefits of closing the gender gap are larger than previously estimated, and they can contribute towards increasing GDP by up to 35%. Moreover, research from leading management consulting firm McKinsey & Company also outlines how gender-diverse businesses are 15% more likely to have financially returns, above the industry median.

The productivity and growth gains achieved by adding women to the labor force are testament to the fact that gender diversity matters, and most recently, we witnessed this closer to home, where the UAE intensified its efforts to boost female representation at the highest levels of business by announcing that all listed companies in the country now need to have at least one female board director.

Striking gender diversity is a delicate balance– but it can be achieved

While there are no "quick fixes" to ensure that companies are actively implementing polices that support this agenda, a robust and forward-thinking HR department can be a catalyst in helping to narrow the gender gap.

At my company, Canon, we are guided by our corporate philosophy of kyosei, a dedication to seeing all people, regardless of culture, customs, language, or race, harmoniously living and working together in happiness. And across the MENA region, we are immensely proud of the fact that more than half (57%) of Canon leadership positions are filled by women. With guidelines, HR policies, and programs that actively promote the participation of women, we have been able to ensure that women feel supported and secure in their jobs. A combination of extended maternity leave, flexible working hours, part-time working facilities for new mothers, and extended paternity leave are just some of the elements in place to ensure we retain our female talent.

Career advancement training is critical

Polices that ensure an accommodating and flexible working environment are a great start, but on their own, they are not enough– companies that actively engage in female career advancement strategies are more likely to ensure female promotions and retained participation in leadership positions.

With this agenda in mind, Canon organizes dedicated leadership training for women to prepare them for managerial positions. Since its launch in 2012, 176 women have completed the training, and they are now playing active roles in leadership positions. Specifically across the Middle East, 2020 saw the launch of the "She Rise" internal program to promote, support, and empower women in the workplace, through inspirational talks from female leaders as well as training and mentoring sessions. Now in its second year, the program is our testament to ensuring that women at Canon Middle East are supported to not only perform, but excel in their careers.

Related: Could Investing In Women Be The Next Bitcoin Opportunity? Making The Case For Gender Lens Investing

Live your values in all aspects of corporate outreach– especially consumer focused ones

The quest for gender diversity does not end in the board room– it permeates every aspect of an organization. A study by research firm Frost & Sullivan, estimated that women would control $43 trillion of global consumer spending in 2020, reiterating the importance of ensuring that female consumers are heard, their needs met and most importantly, they feel "connected" through similar corporate values and ideology.

While Canon Middle East has a strong female leadership team, this philosophy of gender equality and female empowerment permeates every aspect of the business- even its marketing campaigns. In the tail end of 2020, Canon Middle East launched its "Trailblazer" series to champion pioneering individuals from the Middle East. It was no coincidence that two of the three individuals selected were women, who were cherrypicked to share their inspiring stories. Canon Middle East embraced the opportunity to share the story of Raha Moharrak, the youngest Arab and the first Saudi Arabian woman to climb Mount Everest, as well as UAE-based award-winning singer and songwriter Layla Kardan as a way to help inspire a future generation of strong women. The campaign is now being extended into 2021 with a second season of "Trailblazers 2.0," where three more female visionaries will be given a chance to share their voice and have their stories heard.

With our focus and commitment to diversity in the workplace and community support, Women's Day has always presented a significant platform to elevate the importance of embracing equal opportunities across the creative industry. Women's Day 2021 was a particularly special day as we became part of the global #ChoosetoChallenge campaign by launching a year-long social media initiative: "Women who Empower." The campaign is a celebration of female talent from across the Middle East with a call to action that will culminate in Canon facilitating opportunities to support female talent via increased visibility, reaching wider audiences and the ability to take their creative projects forward.

Canon has always been at the forefront of fostering creative talent, and advocating for diversity and equality across all disciples. Understanding and meeting the needs of women is key to a prosperous and progressive organization, and I am proud to be working towards a future that is inclusive, inspiring, and puts people first.

Related: Taking Stock: Five Things The Last 12 Months Taught Me As A Female Entrepreneur

Veronica Juul-Nyholm

HR Director, Canon Middle East, Central North Africa, and Eurasia

Veronica Juul-Nyholm is the HR Director at Canon Middle East, Central North Africa, and Eurasia.

During her tenure, she has implemented and delivered a range of HR programs and policies that have supported the innovative and entrepreneurial culture at Canon. Her areas of expertise span business planning, employee engagement, and organizational development.

Veronica has a long history of working in internationally recognized multinational companies, including those operating in the electronics, pharmaceutical, automotivem and banking sectors. She holds a degree in economics and commerce from Università degli Studi di Parma.


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