Empowering the Mashreq: How Gender Diversity Drives Business Success

A recent report from the Mashreq Gender Facility (MGF) highlights the critical role of gender diversity in business success within Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. The report underscores the importance of attracting, retaining, and promoting women in the workplace, offering concrete strategies and case studies that demonstrate the economic and social benefits of gender-inclusive policies.

CoE-EDP, VisionRICoE-EDP, VisionRI | Updated: 22-06-2024 23:28 IST | Created: 22-06-2024 23:28 IST
Empowering the Mashreq: How Gender Diversity Drives Business Success
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In an era where gender diversity is increasingly recognized as a catalyst for business success, the Mashreq Gender Facility (MGF) has released a compelling report titled "Attracting, Retaining, and Promoting Women in the Workplace: Lessons from the Mashreq." This insightful document provides a roadmap for companies in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon to harness the power of a diverse workforce. It highlights actionable strategies that can lead to a more inclusive, productive, and profitable business environment.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has noted that closing the gender gap in labor force participation could boost global GDP by nearly 4 percent by 2025. Despite this, women's participation in the workforce in the Mashreq region remains alarmingly low. The report aims to change this by offering practical advice and real-world examples from companies that have successfully implemented gender-inclusive policies.

Leadership Commitment: The First Step

The foundation of a gender-diverse workplace is a strong commitment from senior management. The MGF report emphasizes that leaders must clearly articulate their dedication to gender equality. This involves setting explicit goals, implementing policies, and establishing accountability mechanisms. For instance, Nafith Logistics in Iraq has developed a Gender Equity Development Model (GEDM) that integrates gender diversity into the company's core values and operations. This approach has significantly enhanced employee satisfaction and organizational culture.

Estarta Solutions in Jordan also exemplifies effective leadership commitment. By adopting a comprehensive gender diversity plan, the company has positioned itself as an employer of choice, particularly in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, which traditionally sees lower female participation.

Attracting Female Talent

To build a gender-diverse workforce, companies must proactively attract female talent. This begins with gender-balanced recruitment practices and extends to outreach programs at universities and public awareness campaigns. Estarta Solutions has partnered with universities to promote ICT careers to young women, ensuring they see the sector as a viable and attractive option. These efforts have led to a significant increase in female applicants and hires.

Moreover, addressing societal norms is crucial. Nafith Logistics has launched community awareness initiatives to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage women to consider careers in logistics, a field often dominated by men. By engaging with the community and providing safe working environments, they have successfully attracted more female employees.

Creating a Supportive Work Environment

Retention is just as important as recruitment. Family-friendly policies, such as flexible work hours and remote work options, are essential for retaining female employees. Companies like ITG Holding in Lebanon and Amin Kawar & Sons in Jordan have introduced flexible working arrangements that cater to the needs of working mothers. These policies have led to higher productivity and lower staff turnover rates.

Providing childcare support is another critical factor. Zain Iraq, for example, offers an on-site nursery, allowing employees to balance work and family responsibilities effectively. Such initiatives not only support female employees but also contribute to a more loyal and motivated workforce.

Promoting Women into Leadership

Promoting women into leadership roles can significantly impact a company's performance. The report advocates for fair promotion policies, mentorship programs, and leadership training to equip women with the necessary skills to advance their careers. Ashur International Bank in Iraq has implemented gender quotas to ensure a balanced representation in leadership positions. This policy has resulted in a 42 percent increase in managerial roles held by women.

Estarta Solutions' leadership training programs have also proven successful. By offering comprehensive professional development opportunities, the company has increased the proportion of women in middle management to 52 percent, demonstrating that with the right support, women can thrive in leadership roles.

Overcoming Barriers

The report does not shy away from addressing the significant barriers women face in the Mashreq region, such as cultural norms, limited childcare facilities, and high rates of workplace sexual harassment. It highlights the importance of creating safe work environments and robust policies to prevent and address harassment. Companies like Umniah in Jordan have implemented zero-tolerance policies and confidential reporting mechanisms, encouraging a culture of respect and safety.

Path Forward

The MGF report concludes that gender diversity is both a moral imperative and a business necessity. Companies that prioritize gender-inclusive policies stand to gain from increased innovation, productivity, and economic growth. The lessons from the Mashreq region offer valuable insights for businesses and policymakers worldwide, showing that with commitment and the right strategies, gender diversity can transform workplaces and drive success.

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