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UAE Perspectives About Diversity and Inclusion: 5 Tips to Make a Team Inclusive

Written by Guest Blogger Sarah Tabet, the HR Director for Middle East at Schneider Electric

The French Business Council Dubai and Northern Emirates has recently launched its new magazine. It’s mission? Provide local business community with a new forum for knowledge and information exchange.

The first edition focused on Diversity and Inclusion, and I was invited to describe the UAE perspective in the D&I panorama and share some of Schneider Electric’s best practices.

Key differences and common trends in Diversity and Inclusion

When we speak about diversity and inclusion, there are numerous attributes such as nationality, gender balance, and additional aspects that make up a heterogeneous country and workforce.  There are key differences and common trends between the European and UAE market when it comes to D&I.

A distinct characteristic of the UAE and the Gulf region is that there are more than 200 nationalities, with the UAE comprising about 80 percent expatriates. This diverse workforce raises the need for employers to consider cultural differences at every level of their organization. While major cities share strong diversity characteristics, the population is overall more homogeneous than the UAE.

At the level of gender balance however, similarly to Europe, the UAE government and organizations are pushing to improve women in leadership roles.  For example, women now comprise nearly 30 percent of the Ministerial cabinet, higher than many countries worldwide. The UAE Gender Balance Council aims for the UAE to become one of the world’s top 25 countries for gender equality by 2021.

However, the private sector still has a major gap in the presence of women in leadership roles, in the UAE, the Arabian Gulf region, and in Europe. The private sector should work closely with the public and academic sectors to enable more women to join private sector organizations.

Schneider Electric initiatives that made a real difference

At Schneider Electric, taking the global step of recognizing diversity as a business imperative and not just a Human Resources initiative has made a real difference.

As part of our global “people strategy” we have added Diversity and Inclusion as one of the six key transformation priorities, impacting how we operate globally and locally. Our recruitment strategies support our commitment to increase the level of representation of women across the pipeline.

We have established dedicated executive-level groups to drive towards gender parity. We support the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 signatures, which aim for global role models to set the tone for gender equality, along many initiatives to promote education, training and awareness around diversity and inclusion. This ensures we are a diverse and inclusive company where differences are valued and respected, and equal opportunities offered to everyone, everywhere.

In recognition of our Global Family Leave Policy, Gender Pay Equity Process, and access to energy training and entrepreneurship program, Schneider Electric was also listed in the 2018 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, a barometer of gender-equality performance in worldwide sectors.

On the top of these actions, our company has dedicated global team to focus entirely on Diversity and Inclusion, which has also identified local ambassadors to support and lead on Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. We have revisited our policies, processes, and day-to-day operations to continue making progress.

At Schneider Electric, taking the global step of recognizing diversity as a business imperative and not just a Human Resources initiative has made a real difference.

Overcoming stereotypes

The best way to overcome stereotypes is first by understanding them. This is done by communication, training sessions, and rolling out company-wide awareness campaigns.

Since 2017, our global leadership teams have launched virtual training programs and interactive platforms to educate employees around hidden bias. By tapping those hidden, automatic stereotypes that avoid conscious control, we aim to help our staff to recognize biased attitudes.

On additional fronts, internal and external communications have played a key role in promoting and accelerating how to overcome bias. We have revised all communications to ensure that they are open, genuine, and non-judgmental. For example, we are portraying women as site engineers and highlighting multi-cultural literatures. While there is always room for improvement, we continue to proactively close any remaining bias gaps.

5 tips to make a team inclusive

If I think about concrete actions that create inclusive work environment, these would be:

  • Inclusivity begins by revisiting the organization’s recruitment strategies to ensure hiring is approached with the objective of fostering diversity and inclusion. It is crucial to build a mixed workforce that provides a range of abilities, experience, knowledge, and strengths brought by its heterogeneity in age, background, ethnicity, physical abilities, beliefs, and other attributes.
  • Celebrate diversity and educate employees across the organization about different practices, such as Diwali, International Women’s Day, and International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Create inclusive spaces where employees can spend time with one another, and foster engaging conversations to help people share their experiences.
  • Encourage participation in employee or company driven team-building events, such as football matches, to foster connections and networks.
  • Ensure that policies are built in a way for everyone to feel like they are truly welcome, safe and free to be themselves in the workplace. Examples can include flexible dress codes, flexible working hours, and family leave considerations.

How to measure the change?

Schneider Electric measures diversity and inclusion in our “OneVoice” employee survey, with results that are measured, analyzed, and communicated year-on-year across the organization. This survey is used to identify both strengths and areas for improvement, and most importantly, to demonstrate the impact of all initiatives and programs conducted.

To ensure that results are translated into actions that benefit both the company and the employees, we conduct focus groups to hear and share feedback, perspectives, stories that set future priorities.

On a personal level, in addition to my main role in HR, leading the Diversity and Inclusion agenda has given me a great opportunity to engage, influence, and strengthen the commitment of our people to the Diversity and Inclusion principles.
I am proud of our company and our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.


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About the Author

Sarah Tabet is the HR Director for Schneider Electric Process Automation Middle East. She brings over 10 years of multinational experience in the human resources field. In addition to her main HR role in Schneider Electric focusing on Performance Management, Talent Management, People Development, Succession Planning and Employee Engagement, Sarah has been passionately leading the Schneider Electric’s Diversity and Inclusion Agenda for the Gulf and Pakistan Cluster.

This blog has been adapted from a recent article in The French Business Council Dubai and Northern Emirates


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