Wednesday 10, February 2016

Dubai – MENA Herald: A new Middle East & North Africa (MENA) ‘Women in Finance’ award has been launched at an event in Dubai which looked at how businesses can encourage greater diversity and benefit in the process.

The award initiative was announced by event host ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) at their recent event with the theme” Lead the change – increasing gender diversity to boost performance.” Launched in partnership with business information company Naseba, the award will be presented by ACCA at Naseba’s 10th CFO MENA Strategies Forum in October 2016 and will recognize the contributions made by women finance professionals to successful businesses.

Commenting on the award, Sophie Le Ray, CEO for Naseba said “Despite the massive strides that have been in the realm of diversity, women still only represent 22 percent of corporate leadership globally, and studies show that they are far less likely to leverage their networks than men. We aim to change this, and to promote diversity – not only for moral reasons, but because it makes sound economic sense. Highlighting the achievement of female finance professionals is yet another step in this direction, and we are pleased to be launching the Women in Finance award with ACCA.”

The announcement followed a panel discussion hosted to deliver exclusive insights from diversity experts and successful business leaders in organisations that are changing the game by making gender diversity a strategic business imperative.

The panel discussion featured views from Eva Mourino, HR Director – Middle East & Africa for AstraZeneca; Hoda Abou Jamra, Founding Partner at TVM Capital Healthcare Partners; Mutasem Dajani, Regional Managing Partner at Deloitte UAE; Rachel Ellyard, Talent Leader – Middle East & North Africa at EY; Rana Askoul, Founder of Changing Pink; Samer Hijazi, Partner & Head of Islamic Finance for Grant Thornton UAE; Shabbir Barket Ali, CFO – Middle East & Africa for The Royal Bank of Scotland; Tanguy de Belair, Diversity Manager at Vinci Group; and Tasneem Lakdawalla, Partner – Advisory Services at KPMG Lower Gulf. The discussion was chaired by Paul Godfrey, one of the region’s best known editors and commentators on business, current affairs and finance.

The panel agreed that there is growing awareness about the business impact of gender diversity but whilst the value of gender diversity increasingly gains a place on the corporate agenda of many companies operating in the country, there is still a long way to go.
Panelists highlighted that gender diversity doesn’t happen by osmosis. Data and processes need to be in place to make it happen. As such, it is important for the finance function and diversity management to form an effective partnership within the organisation. Finance teams can help demonstrate the linkages between good diversity management and business performance and can also ensure there is appropriate accountability and governance attached to Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.

Discussion moved to critical success factors in company-led gender diversity efforts with the panel identifying understanding of the business case, inclusive leadership and interventions at all critical career points as extremely important. Accountability for gender diversity initiatives at various hierarchical levels and mentoring opportunities that are not gender neutral were also identified as catalysts to the successful implementation of corporate gender diversity initiatives.

The event was attended by over 60 CFOs and senior finance professionals as well as representantives from the Women in Leadership Economic forum and the GCC chapter of the 30% club.

“Opportunity and diversity is at the heart of ACCA’s values. Promoting the value of having women in senior roles in business and finance is part of our wider diversity agenda. ACCA has long campaigned for greater diversity in organizations because our research shows that businesses which encourage diversity are more successful. We explore the challenges and practical solutions and encourage our members to effect positive change as they move into leadership roles” said Lindsay Degouve de Nuncques, head of ACCA Middle East at the closing remarks.

“In the UAE, in addition to providing an exclusive platform for influential business leaders to discuss key issues on women in finance, ACCA joins discussions on the gender diversity topic and actively support other gender diversity forums and initiatives in the region.” Degouve added.