The Diversity Council MENA launched in Dubai

A large number of regional companies, including DP World, GFH Financial Group, Accenture, Headspring Executive Development, and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund have joined

Diversity Council MENA

Staff Report

The Diversity Council, an inclusion and diversity accelerator bringing together major leading companies in a cross-industry alliance, announced its presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region during the launch of The Diversity Council MENA on July 3, 2019 at the Emerald Palace Kempinski, Palm Jumeirah.

A number of large regional companies, including DP World, GFH Financial Group, Accenture, Headspring Executive Development, and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund aligned as Founding Partners to launch the diversity accelerator in the region.

The Danish ambassadors of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE were present at the launch, along with other regional officials and distinguished guests. Senior representatives of the Above & Beyond Group flew in from Denmark for the first HR Meeting followed by a Press Reception at The Diversity Council MENA launch. The Founding Partners and Media Partners embarked on a journey of cross-industry collaboration and best-practice sharing.

The event also included three highly relevant panel discussions on diversity and inclusion.
The first panel on “The GCC Economic Paradigm” moderated by Julien Hawari, CEO of Infak with insights from H.E. Ole E Moesby, Danish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Xavier Anglada, Managing Director of Accenture Digital Lead in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey; Dr. Ashraf Gamal El Din, CEO, Hawkamah; and Fatema Kamal, Executive Director, Investment Management, GFH Financial Group, delved into how women’s participation and women in leadership positions can boost the national economies in the region.
The second session on “A Business Priority: Empowering Women Leaders,” moderated by Rawan Radwan, Regional Correspondent, Arab News, with insights from Francesca Gori, Managing Director, Accenture Legal Services; Eng Noor Shabib, Assistant Director General/ Strategic Planning and Business Development, Saudi Industrial Development Fund; Osman Sultan, CEO, du; Dr. Dena Assaf, UN Resident Coordinator and Tine Arentsen Willumsen, Owner and CEO, Above & Beyond Group, included discussions on best practices, regional specificities, KPIs, deliverables, and metrics showcasing how a pipeline of women leaders can transform businesses and result in higher revenues.

The third panel on “Women in Tech: The Quest for STEM Talents” moderated by journalist Allegra Salvadori, with insights from Saudamini Dubey, Managing Director, Accenture Digital MET; Seza Vaziri, Global Customer Improvement Leader, GE Power; Gustaf Nordbäck, CEO, Headspring Executive Development; and Zain Salem, Manager, Risk Management, GFH Financial Group, focused on the under-representation of women in major tech companies across the world and what needs to be done to promote their inclusion. It also touched upon major advancements in STEM, tech and AI, and addressed what needs to be done to drive the agenda forward.

Tine Arentsen Willumsen, Founder of The Diversity Council, said: “We were delighted to have so many committed companies gathered here today for the launch of The Diversity Council MENA. With companies across the world recognizing the business imperative of addressing the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal number 5, Gender Equality, I believe we really are at the start of a seismic shift as large companies are aligning with the business imperative of gender diversity at all levels. This first meeting in Dubai has begun the process of sharing cross-industry know-how on achieving inclusion and gender diversity, with companies committed to leading this important agenda.”

Xavier Anglada, MD, Accenture Digital Lead, MENAT said: “There are trillions to be harnessed by making innovation the core of your businesses. We’ve seen that companies with a more diversified workforce have much more ability to grow than those that are single-biased. We see a lot of female youngsters who have the potential. We need to walk with them, at a fast pace, to the next stage because they need to observe and they need to follow the leadership of someone that is up there. Innovation doesn’t come from outside, it comes from inside and you just need to make that come out.”

Alexandre Hawari, CEO of Mediaquest, said: “The time has come to move from ideating about tackling ‘diversity in the workplace’ to implementing these essential changes within organizations, especially at a time when government initiatives such as Saudi Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021 are reshaping work culture and the economic landscape in the region. Mediaquest is proud to partner with the inclusion and diversity accelerator, The Diversity Council, as it expands into the MENA region. We stand by the initiative to start ensuring that our boardrooms and executive suites provide equal opportunity, and create an inclusive environment that secures a pipeline of high potential future female leaders. We thank the Founding Partners for embarking on this journey of cross-industry collaboration. We look forward to working closely with the Above & Beyond Group to deliver The Diversity Council MENA and the Advanced Leadership Program for Women to champion the diversity agenda in the region.”

The Diversity Council MENA unites businesses from around the region that wish to champion the diversity agenda and find efficient joint solutions. The cultural transformation empowered by The Diversity Council is rooted at the very top, with the vision of the CEO and the Head of HR. Members meet at the CEO level twice a year, and at the HR level in two annual workshops, to jointly discuss their challenges, share initiatives, and look for synergies to help their female talents progress. The council also strengthens the female leadership pipeline in the Middle East through the Advanced Leadership Program for Women, which will be held in the UAE in early 2020.

Tine Arentsen Willumsen concludes: “The Advanced Leadership Program for Women, facilitated by Headspring Executive Development, is based on our proven concept in the Nordics, and supported by professors from London Business School, INSEAD, IE Business School in Madrid and the University of Cambridge. We look forward to bringing the world-class program to high potential female leaders in the MENA region, equipping them to fulfill their potential. All female executive talents will be allocated influential cross-industry mentors and supported through intake, development and focused retaining strategies. Female talents will also be made more visible within the firm through leadership courses. The time is right and the related growth potential for the region is enormous.”

The event has been generously supported by key movers in the industry, including Accenture, DP World, GFH Financial Group, Headspring Executive Development, and Saudi Industrial Development Fund as the Founding Partners; MBC as the Official Media Partner; Arabnews as the Official English Media Partner; Mediaquest and The New York Times as the Media Partner and Hawkamah as the Supporting Partner. –