Gulf women’s equality forum GROWs into the future
Event examines how women can enhance their career tracks and why that's important.
Three dynamic speakers addressing gender equality inspired more than 380 participants at the second virtual gathering of the Gulf Region Organization for Women (GROW).
The event, titled “Gender Equality — Why it Matters,” highlighted the importance of including women in the workplace and the introduction of initiatives to provide a supportive platform and a structure for women to enhance their career development.
The Honorable Hind Al-Zahid, Deputy Minister for Women’s Empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, discussed the Kingdom’s latest steps to advance Saudi women.
“(Women are) the largest global reservoir of untapped potential,” Al-Zahid said.
The Deputy Minister highlighted the significant increase in Saudi female workforce participation, which jumped from 17% to 30% over the past four years.
Al-Zahid outlined the Kingdom’s strategy to further enable women in their careers:
• Introducing legislation to eliminate gender discrimination in employment, wage, and opportunity.
• Developing a care, education, and recreation ecosystem for children and the elderly.
• Enriching Arabic content in government educational and cultural literature with biographies and stories of Saudi Heroines to increase diversity and awareness.
• Ensuring government entities integrate gender needs and promote equality.
It’s very important to ensure equitable access and representation of women in leadership positions in the public sector, including decision making committees and boards of directors, by targeting a percentage of no less than 30% by 2030.
— Hind Al-Zahid
“Empowerment is contagious; it is what I call the reverse domino effect: lift one woman up, and she will lift others up, who will lift others up — when you empower women, you empower, for sure, a society,” she added.
Jennifer Hartsock, the chief information officer (CIO) at Baker Hughes, emphasized the importance of gender inclusion in the workplace.
She stated that research shows inclusive organizations are more likely to be higher performers, more profitable, and more innovative, and are more likely to have better business outcomes.
Hartsock shared the four lessons she learned on her professional journey from software developer to CIO: use your voice; seek out mentors, and act as one for others; encourage diversity by supporting others; and use your position to advance those around you.
Nancy Speidel, founder and CEO of iSAW (International Smart Advancing Women), a professional women’s organization, demonstrated the value of women in the workforce by referring to recent studies.
Organizations with more diverse and inclusive executive teams were 21% more likely to be profitable, according to a recent study by McKinsey, a management consulting firm.
Three key characteristics allowing teams to outperform others were inclusion, high emotional intelligence (EQ), and an equal number of men and women, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Google.
“Women are untapped strategic talents. Data demonstrates value we bring, and if companies and corporations want to compete globally, and if we want to improve our society … we have to have a place at the table,” Speidel said.
Karina Kilpatrick, a management and professional trainer with the Diversity and Inclusion Division at Aramco, concluded the event with a summary of planned activities for 2021, and a brief description of GROW’s operating model.
GROW will be holding another virtual event with the theme “Choose to Challenge” on March 23 at 9:30 a.m.