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Mona Al Marri, Vice President of the UAE Gender Balance Council with representatives of six additional local and multinational companies which joined the Sustainable Development Goals in Dubai.

Dubai: The UAE Gender Balance Council has announced that six additional local and multinational companies have joined the Sustainable Development Goals. The aim is to accelerate gender balance in the UAE private sector.

The Pledge was signed during a ceremony attended by Mona Al Marri, Vice President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and Chairperson of the Global Council on SDG 5 Pledge (Gender Equality); Hanan Ahli, Acting Director of the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre as well as a government officials and representatives from DP World, Kearney, KPMG, Coca-Cola, Danone and VFS Global.

Empowering women at the workplace

The pledge encourages stronger and more sustainable gender balance at the company level, with an emphasis on increasing the representation of women in leadership positions to 30% by 2025 through policy, programme, and strategic actions. In January 2022, 17 private sector companies signed the Pledge, now bringing the total number of companies to 23.

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National priority

Shaikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council, President of Dubai Women Establishment, and wife of Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, stated that women’s participation in decision-making roles is encouraged across all sectors, and has called on more companies to join this important Pledge.

Shaikha Manal also commended the private sector companies for joining this voluntary initiative, which reflects the unique partnership between the government and private sector in the UAE to achieve the national goals and a future vision by the wise leadership that will enable the country to be an international role model and a leading global economy in the next fifty years.

Significant step

At the start of the signing ceremony, Al Merri welcomed companies that joined the pledge and pointed out that it was a significant step in achieving gender balance in the country as it complemented the progress made in both the public and private sectors. She praised the quick action taken by these companies which enabled the pledge to be signed in record time, and said it was the result of several years of joint work between government and private sector institutions with the aim of inspiring innovative techniques to increase the effective role of women in leadership roles in the UAE private sector. “This is a collective effort that we will work on together to gradually promote gender balance, from middle management to the highest levels of leadership, ” she added.

Collective responsibility

Robert Erich Willen, Partner, Managing Director Kearney — Middle East and Africa Region, said: “To make lasting progress, we will need to not only transform our businesses and society but also embrace collective responsibility so our economies and communities can thrive. As a signatory to the Pledge to Accelerate Gender Balance in the UAE’s Private Sector. Kearney is committed to further advancing gender equality not only within the UAE but across our regional offices and across our firm globally.”

Nader Haffar, Chairman — KPMG Middle East and South Asia, Chairman and CEO — KPMG Lower Gulf, said: “We at KPMG Lower Gulf are working to make a future where inclusion, diversity and equity (IDE) is a reality. By signing the pledge to accelerate gender equality in the workplace, we are underscoring our commitment to increase the representation of women in middle and senior managerial roles in the UAE to 30% by 2025. Everything we do at KPMG is driven by our purpose: ‘Inspiring confidence. Empowering change.”

Lasting effect

Maha Al Qattan, Group Chief People and Sustainability Officer at DP World, said: “DP World recognises the importance of the Pledge to Accelerate Gender Balance in achieving gender equity. The company has long been dedicated to making a positive impact for women and girls, both within the trade and logistics industry and wider society. In 2015, DP World signed the UN Women Empowerment Principles, and in 2018 it launched ‘MentorHer’, a global programme for the career development of female employees. The business also hosts regular WomenLead@DPWorld training programmes, aiming to support female managers to increase their impact and contribution towards their current roles and future career aspirations.”

She added: “As one of the UAE’s leading employers, a partnership between DP World and the UAE government to further the empowerment of women in the workplace has the potential to create a lasting impact and real change, both in the economy and beyond.”

Fair practices

Tolga Cebe, Vice President and General Manager Middle East, The Coca-Cola Company added: “We are honoured to be a part of this pledge and to support and contribute to the UAE’s gender balance vision. Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of The Coca-Cola Company values and are key priorities both at a global and local level. We proudly invest in programs and partnerships to recruit and develop diverse talent, foster an inclusive culture and equitable practices in our workplace, and work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the communities we serve. Our current ratio of women in mid to senior level roles in the UAE is at 32 per cent and I am proud to be part of an ecosystem that invests in, nurtures and continues to provide opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders.”

Legacy and Diversity

Zubin Karkaria, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of VFS Global Group, said: “We are delighted and honoured to sign the pledge to accelerate gender balance in the UAE Private Sector. Encouraging gender diversity has been an integral part of our vision and growth philosophy at VFS Global. It is a part of nurturing our colleagues, one of the five sustainability pillars in our ESG strategy. We take pride in celebrating the contributions of our incredible women colleagues who form 58% of our global team. Diversity in our workforce has hugely benefited our thought processes and business practices.”

Pillars and pledges

The SDG pledge consists of four main pillars: equal pay, employment and promotion on the basis of gender equality including senior leadership positions, integrating gender balance in the companies’ policies and programs, and transparency.

It incorporates a number of initiatives and policies that ensure the achievement of these pillars, including taking the necessary measures to ensure equal pay for equal work for both men and women in the workplace, creating equal opportunities for high-paid positions for both genders, continuing to ensure objectivity in considering candidates from both genders for senior positions, taking effective measures to eliminate unconscious bias in recruitment processes and investing in skills building initiatives and mentorship programmes.