How Canon Middle East is empowering women
In recent years we’ve seen quite a dramatic shift in the representation of women in the workplace across the Middle East. Bucking historical trends, several companies throughout the region are now implementing dedicated policies that encourage women to join the workforce and set themselves on their own unique career trajectories.
Historically, though, the lower presence of women in the workforce has contradicted academic attendance, with girls in the Middle East encouraged to attain a full education at school. Recent research even shows that academic scores are essentially the same for boys and girls in the region.
In a positive move, many organizations are now recognizing the financial viability of bringing more women into the workplace. This is especially true when you consider that McKinsey estimates the region could earn an additional $2.7 trillion in GDP by 2025 if women’s labor force participation rates are on parity with men’s.
That’s why we are seeing the roadblocks from years gone by slowly fade away, replaced by organizations of all sizes adopting new structures that actively encourage the employment of women.
“Recent reports have proven that working women can increase household income to ensure a better standard of living for their families, as well as drive overall GDP increase in the region. Their contributions are invaluable, and Canon is fully behind giving these young women all the support required,” says Veronica Juul-Nyholm, Human Resources Director, Canon Middle East and Central and North Africa.
Because this shift has the potential to grow business activity in the Middle East, with a greater number of employees entering the market, organizations need to have adequate structures and policies in place to support women in the workplace.
In Canon Middle East, for example, there are more than 50% of women in top leadership roles. One of Canon’s key values is empowering women in the workplace, which is backed by several initiatives to support women as they grow and progress in their careers.
Kyosei philosophy – living and working together for the common good – is at the heart of these initiatives. It is upon this backbone that Canon actively celebrates and encourages diversity in the workplace. Even from as far back as 2005, Canon went above and beyond the regional average (45 days) to offer female employees up to four months off for maternity leave.
Flexible working hours, which was introduced four years ago, is another factor that allows women at Canon to thrive. Combined with extended maternity leave, these initiatives give women the ability to focus on family without having to give up a career in the technology and imaging industry. Canon also encourages women to return to the workforce following a career break, which allows them to jump back into their role and forge a path towards success.
“Women are an integral part of Canon and we are proud to offer them the freedom to grow their families without having to relinquish their careers. It is this focus on diversity and empowerment that sets Canon apart,” says Veronica Juul-Nyholm, Human Resources Director, Canon Middle East and Central and North Africa
One of the focus areas for Canon now is its ‘Young Women Mentorship Program’. In 2016, Canon’s major internship/mentorship program began in earnest, allowing both men and women to join the company for up to a year. The first year began with a number of placements given to women across the region. The program is open to both fresh graduates and students, meaning women who are at university can obtain valuable work experience without giving up their studies.
Due to its success last year, the program will extend to 15 of its existing interns in 2019. With eight available sessions every month, participants will have their talent nurtured, their self-confidence built, and their career aspirations sculpted under the leadership of four female team members from Canon’s management team.
Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications & Marketing Services Director, Canon Middle East and Central and North Africa, says: “We are proud that the program was a success and that we are able to offer this opportunity to more female students. The ‘Young Women Mentorship Program’ is dedicated to empowering young women who are ready to go to the next level of their education and training, so they are ready to start their journey toward a successful career. I look forward to participating as one of the mentors within the program.”
WEF, Jul 2018: How women are transforming the Arab world’s start-up scene
Bayt, Nov 2018: Working women in the Middle East and North Africa
Canon recognizes that pathways toward a successful career often begin at a young age. Several women have already successfully graduated from Canon’s internship and mentorship programs, one of whom, an Emirati student, Madia Abudeluh, says her time was an “eye-opening” experience.
“My experience at Canon was, in a word, exceptional,” Madia says. The biggest factor about Canon that makes it stand out from other companies is the diversity of employees and the remarkable harmony that exists despite of all the difference. The level of cooperation and tolerance is unmatched by any other environment that I have personally been in.
“Canon taught me to be more trusting, open, and flexible, especially in spontaneous situations. Moreover, it equipped me with the tools I would need to thrive in other workplaces and taught me invaluable lessons that I highly doubt I would have learned elsewhere.”
As women in the Middle East become more receptive to entering the workplace, it opens up a much wider pool of talent. And in order to attract and retain the very best employees – as every organization strives to do – there must be structured policies in place that support women as they grow and develop in their careers.