Dubai, United Arab Emirates: LinkedIn, Dell, Facebook and Ericsson held the first ever MENA Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) event in Dubai earlier this week. CWIT, a collaborative initiative which started with 15 technology companies in Ireland, was created to attract and retain women in the technology industry.
The MENA chapter aims to drive initiatives that encourage and support a culture of innovation so that more women enter the technology industry. The invite-only event was attended by 80 technology executives who took part in networking, workshops and panel discussions. The first series of inspiring sessions were held under the theme of ‘Diversity in Tech’ but simultaneously strived to connect and inspire women in different industries across the Middle East who also attended the event.
Speaking as part of a panel on “Gender Diversity: Two Corporate Narratives”, Dave Brooke, Executive Director, Client Solution Emerging Markets EMEA at Dell, commented: “At Dell we are always looking for ways to level the playing field. You might be wondering why I am here with you today instead of one of our many female colleagues, the reason is that we strongly believe that men need to be part of the solution when it comes to lifting the barriers to opportunities that women face. Dell has implemented a program called ‘Men Advocating Real Change’ (MARC), an initiative designed to engage men in creating a more inclusive work environment. Today MARC is a key component of Dell’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and Dell has policies in place which support work at home options, flexi-time, talent and skillset development all of which are enablers for women to achieve their career goals.”
Hina Sarwat, HR Middle East and WISE lead for Dell commented: “WISE (Women in Search of Excellence) and MARC are now collaborating on many fronts, this event being a prime example, and this collaboration is accelerating awareness not only within our own organization but also externally.”
On a second panel titled “Gender Diversity in the Valley: A Personal Perspective”, hosted by Sophie Le Ray, CEO of Naseba, devoted panelists shared their personal experiences looking at challenges and opportunities providing practical knowledge.
“At Facebook, driving diversity is integral to our mission of creating a more open and connected world. Our Chief Operating Officer literally wrote the book about the importance of women leaning in, coming together, and transforming economies. The CWIT event is one of the many steps we take to fulfill that goal” said Amira Rashad, Regional Head of Brand Advertising at Facebook Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan.
Sahiba Watson, Talent Acquisition Partner – MENA, LinkedIn, said, “Two of the core values guiding everything we do at LinkedIn are integrity and collaboration. To live our values fully, we believe it’s critical to have our employees represent as diverse a range of backgrounds and viewpoints as our members do. This balance of perspectives helps us achieve our goal of making the world’s professionals more productive and successful, and ultimately creating economic opportunity.”
Watson went on to explain the objective of the event “Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) is an initiative that originally started in Dublin, Ireland, and this year. We have decided to bring it to the UAE, with the common goal to help our top female talent connect and grow in the region”
There is planning underway to continue the dialogue on diversity in the workplace and CWIT hopes to introduce a number of initiatives throughout the year to encourage and inspire more women in the technology sector as well as other industries.
“Diversity and inclusion is a cornerstone of the Swedish society and therefore a part of Ericsson’s DNA. It’s an absolute business imperative for us as it does not only drive engagement, but also customer orientation and innovation, just to name a few. In Ericsson we are driving Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in a 3 pronged approach: It starts with the tone from the top – fully embraced by our leaders -, it is embedded in all of our key people processes and we encourage local customization to align with different market realities. Whilst diversity means many things, the focus in our region is on increasing our gender balance. Initiatives such as our Mentoring Circle, where we develop 56 young female talents, our role model sessions or our Unconscious Bias training for leaders and employees are only 3 examples of how we drive our agenda,” said Gabriele Metz, Head of Talent Management at Ericsson in Region Middle East.
Other panelists who spoke in similar vein at the event were Amira Rashad, Head of Brand at Facebook and Stefanie Fernandez, Head of Sales Search & Staffing at LinkedIn and Gabriele Metz, Head of Talent Management at Ericsson. A panel session on “What about Diversity in Non-Tech Companies” with Delel Chaabouni, Chief Information Officer of Pepsi Co discussed the importance of inclusive workplaces in the region.