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How women are being supported
Having recently celebrated International Women’s Day 2020, it’s the perfect time to examine the Middle East marketplace and learn what organizations are doing to support and empower women. With more businesses shining a light on women’s achievements in the workplace, as well as promoting them to positions of leadership, it’s clear that the region is going from strength to strength with its support of women at work.
The quality of professional women taking industries by storm is extremely diverse – and it’s only growing. Such progress is even being recognized by major outlets, with Forbes recently unveiling its Power Businesswomen in the Middle East 2020. There are some high-flyers on the list, including Raja Easa Al Gurg, Managing Director at Dubai-based Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, and Dr. Asha Bin Bishr, Director General of the city-wide smart transformation project Smart Dubai.
While the C-suite in the Middle East is littered with highly successful women, it’s not only major corporations where you’ll find empowered businesswomen. Indeed, entrepreneurialism is on the rise across the region, and women business owners like Doaa bin Thabit of Packageha are taking their careers into their own hands – and making great strides.
To coincide with International Women’s Day, Canon partnered with YouGov to conduct a survey exploring the attitudes to women empowerment in the workplace. Speaking with over 1,000 respondents in the region, the survey revealed very optimistic data about women in business and how organizations are supporting their futures.
An overwhelming 83% of respondents say they have noticed an improvement in diversity and gender balance at work in the past five to 10 years, and nearly two in three (64%) believe females in the region are well represented in the boardroom. Additionally, a number of benefits have been introduced to level the playing field and create greater work-life balance for women, including flexible work arrangements, training programs and fair parental leave.
For Dr. Aisha Al-Mana, Founder and General Supervisor of Mohammed Al-Mana College for Medical Sciences, she’s seen a dramatic shift in the way the region views women for leadership positions – especially in contrast to when she started her career: “I faced many challenges and hurdles with every step I took, and these obstacles were for the mere fact of being a woman.
“However, there has been a definite change in the past 10 years, especially with the proposed 2030 vision for the country in the workplace, with many women being appointed to leadership positions.”
Arguably the most important finding from the Canon–YouGov survey is that 77% of respondents believe their organization is already doing enough to support women at work.
“The survey findings are extremely encouraging as we can see there is an overall positive sentiment to women empowerment in the workplace in the Middle East, with most having seen an improvement in terms of policies and gender balance in the last five to 10 years,” says Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director, Canon Middle East.
“At Canon, we have a strong commitment to women and the community, something that is ingrained in our organization as part of our corporate culture of kyosei. Creating opportunities for women to rise in their respective roles in the organization will remain part of our focus as we continue in our growth trajectory across the region.”
Alongside the survey, Canon has also launched an internal program to support female empowerment. SHE Rise involves inspirational talks from female leaders within the organization, as well as training, mentoring and feedback sessions – all of which are designed to promote, support and empower women in the workplace.
In its initial phase, 10 to 15 women at Canon will benefit from personalized coaching and training sessions. The program will then roll out as a multi-stage campaign to help accelerate equality and support the career goals of many more women across the business.
“Our SHE Rise campaign has been designed with women empowerment front of mind, timed around International Women’s Day this year, and is testament to our ongoing commitment to females and their advancement,” says Veronica Juul-Nyholm, Human Resources Director, Canon Middle East and Central and North Africa.
“The program will focus on the delivery of talks and mentorship for young females working in the organization, supporting them to enhance their skills and not just perform in their roles but excel.”
These programs are a crucial strategy in bringing greater gender equality to workplace leadership positions, however Dr. Aicha says it’s also up to the individual to create their own chances: “I personally believe that a person has to create his or her opportunities in life instead of waiting or expecting it to happen.
“I always had an eye on what could benefit me academically, economically and professionally, and I was able to create opportunities for myself that, for most women in the past, were scarce or unavailable.
“My advice to women is to create your own opportunities and don’t wait for handouts to be given to you.”
From the first International Women’s Day back in 1911 right through to today, women in business are becoming more empowered and supported every year – and the only way is up.
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