Addressing gender-parity gap could make the difference in fulfilling regional economic ambitions

Addressing gender-parity gap could make the difference in fulfilling regional economic ambitions
Leila Serhan. - Supplied photo

By Leila Serhan

Published: Thu 7 Mar 2019, 9:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Mar 2019, 11:29 PM

As fears finally abate over technology's potential to automate us all into obscurity, we begin to see a clearer picture of the post-digitisation society - one of new professions and transformed workplaces. But as we rejoice in the World Bank's news that for every technology job created, 4.3 more are generated across industries and income groups, are we making sure that the full reservoir of our entrepreneurial talent is being used to create those jobs? I think International Women's Day 2019 is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that, in the 21st century, in the digital age, in the midst of humankind's Fourth Industrial Revolution, women remain our most underutilised resource.
Many organisations around the world now work towards the inclusive workplace, openly and diligently addressing issues such as the confidence gap and maternity bias. Global business-intelligence firm McKinsey & Company is one such organisation. In an October 2017 report, the company revealed the results of a decade of research on the gender-parity gap. One finding was that women generate only 37 per cent of global GDP while representing half of the world's working-age population. In the Middle East and North Africa, women generate only 18 per cent of regional GDP, despite representing half the region's population.

Entrepreneurs in waiting
The point here is that, setting aside the moral imperative, gender equality has huge potential for GDP growth, job creation and societal cohesion. That realisation is of great significance in MENA, and especially in the GCC, where governments are clamouring for more and more innovation in an effort to diversify petrochemical-heavy economies.
By empowering women, governments and companies can watch as entrepreneurs with previously untapped potential step into the limelight, innovate, employ and inspire others, and invigorate a culture of disruptive start-ups that accelerates economic development.
Senegal's Mariéme Jamme, CEO of technology organisation SpotOne is such a visionary. She is part of a new generation of girl-geeks emerging from the Fourth Industrial Revolution to lead the way in out-of-the-box thinking. SpotOne helps technology companies to develop their businesses, including giving advice on how best to expand to new territories.
Acting on the World Bank's findings means encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM fields and convincing them that their career paths in the industry will not be inhibited by anything other than their talent and dedication. Once we see the emergence of enough Mariéme Jammes, we will at last have a foundation of female mentors in STEM roles that can act as ambassadors for young women considering the same path.
Honouring the International Women's Day 2019 Microsoft is holding a gender-parity summit at our Dubai offices. To create awareness of a range of women's issues, we gathered professionals from across the technology industry with well-established credentials in overcoming obstacles to gender parity. The event was simulcast via live public webinar to allow anyone with an interest in addressing these issues to take part.
Also, this year Microsoft will hold its ultimate tech conference; Microsoft IGNITE in Dubai from 27-28 March. The conference will also celebrate inclusion in technology with focus on Diversity and Tech to empower people of all gender identities, ethnicities and abilities to accelerate their technology careers and advocate for themselves at work.
We have long urged action on the gender-parity gap, calling on citizens, governments and companies to imagine the golden future of opportunity and prosperity that can arise from fostering truly inclusive workplaces. We work with other, likeminded organisations in the non-profit, private and public sectors to bring about awareness and change for the benefit of women in the workplace.
Inclusion and diversity can only enrich performance, whether we are talking about individual companies or an entire nation. Diversity means more angles investigated when solving problems or designing new products or services. We must all strive to be leaders in attracting, recruiting and retaining women in the technology space and ensuring that gender is no longer a barrier to professional progression.
The writer is Public Sector Director, Microsoft Gulf. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy..

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