Enroute to Sustainability

A conversation with Nityashri Bhatt Shah, Founder of Aevitas Corporate Maternity Wellness on GCC Leadership in Sustainability Scholarship
Enroute to Sustainability

What motivated you to apply for this scholarship?


Many factors led me to apply for this scholarship. If I have to say one thing, Michigan Ross is my dream school. I grew up in Windsor, Canada, a stone’s throw away from Ann Arbor. I always wanted to go to the University of Michigan for my undergraduate studies, however, Wayne State University in Detroit shared a good neighbor policy for paying in-state fees with Ontario. So, I decided to apply for my undergrad at WSU and later move to University of Michigan for grad school. Well, life always has more plans than the ones you make.

During the HRSE Summit & Expo event held in Dubai, I noticed that Michigan Ross had an open enrollment scholarship. The more I read about the scholarship offer, I knew I had to take a chance to apply. It resonated with the work I am currently doing. While I have been trying to bring education and awareness towards social sustainability and trying for momentum, I almost felt there was no possible way for me to break through. However, I thought perhaps applying to this scholarship and if I win, would allow me to come to a full circle of my academic journey of wanting a University of Michigan education and to delve deep into the insights of what is required to be a leader in this area and how I can utilize the learnings into practical applications.

Can you elaborate on your personal journey of sustainability?


Whenever you ask someone about sustainability, it always almost falls on the environmental side of things. People start thinking about eco-friendly products, climate change, recycling, waste management, and water conservation. A lot of people don’t know that this is just one-third of the entire sustainability education, and I was unaware for a long time too. As I further completed my master’s at the University of London in Organizational Psychology, social aspects of sustainability became salient. How can we create meaningful organizations, which promote a healthy and sustainable workforce for generations to come. The very fabric of any organization is its people and as an employer, if you can add purpose and meaning to their lives, they will reengage with the organization positively.

My focus on social sustainability has to do with the role of women in the workplace, which has massively increased. Women are still seen primarily as caregivers and homemakers but there is a disservice done to pregnant women. The discrimination, the stigma, and the biases a working pregnant women face after returning to work- it’s the baby in-utero and the newborn- our future generation, who bears the brunt of maternal stress. I am passionate towards this cause and want to create an inclusive workplace and a sustainable future. My journey into pregnancy and with my master’s dissertation research had led me to discover this gaping hole within the system that has the potential answers to many of the existing problems we are facing at the global level such as, lack of women in leadership and women exiting the workforce due to lack of support and flexibility provided by the employer during and post-partum return to work. If companies started to question why women are leaving the workforce, and how they can prevent it from happening. This would create further opportunities for women to grow into leadership positions instead of having to exit and take career breaks.

What do you believe are the challenges faced by UAE organizations to become more sustainable?


The best way to predict the future is to create it as the famous quote goes. Personally, I believe that UAE is a phenomenal place to work. We have an exemplary and visionary leadership at the helm who is proactive in bringing measures that bring large-scale impact not just for the residents, but also for visitors and tourists alike.  UAE is a place where if you want change to happen, it will happen. I am an eternal optimist but also a realist to say, there isn’t anything considered impossible for UAE to achieve and by that- if the government intervenes and wants to manifest a sustainable future, regardless of the challenges- it will be done.

The one challenge I see is Time. Not having enough time, or not having enough clarity to see the long-term gains of incorporating social sustainability and maternal mental health support. I’ll go back to Aevitas here for a second. I believe it is the lack of attention businesses have towards pregnant women because there isn’t enough time to see this as an area of potential investment for our long-term sustainable workforce, because the results are not immediate. Some organizations struggle to understand the impact. New mothers are always on the verge of being pushed out or she volunteers to opt-out and that talent loss is a primary reason why we don’t have enough women in leadership at a global level. If we were to invest in our pregnant employees, and their mental health and support them on their motherhood journey, then as a new mother, she will support her employer back.

What do you believe these organizations can do to help UAE achieve the net zero target?


With social sustainability, there are many factors that we can take into consideration, which perhaps are not fully known but can help achieve net zero to a certain degree. For example, if you have a pregnant employee in your organization, where-in you have a flexible working policy, you allow her to stay and work from home. Without even noticing, you have already reduced the carbon emissions footprint from her daily commute to work. Organizations can reduce emissions by adopting energy-efficient practices. This can also be applied across the workforce. Employers can implement many strategies and even create a culture of sustainability within the organization through sharing of best practices and statistics that promote awareness and education.

How do you believe education and upskilling will help reach the sustainability development goal in the UAE?


In helping reach the SDG goals, it would be important for those who are incorporating education and upskilling training and workshops to make it a collaborative process that fosters innovations and creativity and not simply another HR checklist activity. Apart from a few known goals, such as gender equality and climate change, majority of people are still largely unaware of what the other goals are and, if you don’t know something, you can’t do anything about it.

Education and upskilling will bring awareness and awareness expands one’s mental capacity to acknowledge the degradation that is happening within our ecosystem and mindfully apply small changes in our daily life. Individually these changes are magnified over time and collectively they start impacting and molding our thoughts into action.

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