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The Engineering and Tech Industries must do more to achieve gender parity,

by Ahmed Khashan, Cluster President, Gulf Countries, Schneider Electric

It’s the day after International Women’s Day, and it’s a time to celebrate how far we’ve come in promoting diversity and inclusion. For me, International Women’s Day is an occasion to also ask ourselves how we can do more. And there is much more we need to do if we’re going to achieve a fair, level playing field for all.

Simply put, women are underrepresented in both engineering and technology roles. Globally, only 25% of computing jobs are held by women, according to research from the NCWIT’s Workforce Alliance. Engineering roles are even more skewed in favor of men; according to the Engineering UK 2018 report, only 12.37% of all engineers in the UK are women. I’d quote from our region, but the figures are not available.

I understand the challenges in working towards achieving gender parity in our industries, but that doesn’t mean I or my company should accept the status quo. 15 years ago, women at Schneider Electric represented just 5% of its top 1000 leaders. Today women make up 23% of our global leadership. 36% of our board members are women and three of our five major country regions are led by female executive committee members. We’re playing our part in the Gulf too; almost 40% of our management team are women.

We’re a company that is almost two hundred years old. And we’ve committed ourselves to a change. The business has prioritised creating a culture in which diversity thrives and everyone feels included. This includes internal hidden bias learning programs to educate employees on how to be more inclusive, flexibility at work programs, and everyone covered by global family leave programs. It also requires pay equity – women should be paid the same as men for doing the same job. And there’s the male support, which is so often overlooked. We need male champions who will push for changes that help women achieve equality.

None of these changes have been easy or simple to implement. But they’re necessary. Diversity makes us a better company; it helps us understand issues from perspectives we haven’t considered before. And we’re more creative as a result.

In many respects, we’re following the lead that the UAE government has set for the country. There are more female ministers here than anywhere else in the region, women have the right to vote, and the UAE is pioneering gender equality at all levels of the government. The country’s leadership understand the fundamental role that women have to play in driving economic growth.

The path to gender equality is an experience that we are all learning and benefiting from. But we have to do more as an industry and as a region. I’ve met so many young female science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates in this region who are talented, ambitious, and who want to work in technical fields. And yet they’re unable to find the roles because of old-fashioned attitudes.

The numbers back this up. According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry over a year ago, women accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom. Women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics, and physics. These same female graduates struggle to secure a job after graduation.

I want us to change this. As an industry, we must come together to pledge that we’ll work for gender equality. Let’s work together, all the engineering and technology companies in the Gulf and the Middle East, to train, develop and offer jobs to more female STEM graduates. I want us all to commit to ensuring that both men and women are interviewed for every available role. And if there are no women available, then let’s work with schools and universities to promote STEM as a career to both boys and girls.

Coalitions of companies can change the dynamic in society over a shorter period. Let’s mobilize for women’s inclusion and gender diversity. We must do better as an industry for all parts of society here. And that’s my promise to you as we celebrate International Women’s Day. Will you join me?

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation in homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in power management – medium voltage, low voltage and secure power, and in automation systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest partner, integrator and developer community on our open platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to innovation, diversity and
sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.

For more information, go to www.se.com/ae/en/.

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