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Sun 27 Oct 2019 03:36 PM

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Closing the gender pay gap

When looking at financial institutions specifically, much can be done in terms of the gender pay gap, says Pavneet Bajwa, head of Human Resources, Standard Chartered Bank UAE

Closing the gender pay gap

Pavneet Bajwa, head of Human Resources, Standard Chartered Bank UAE

Q: What do you think can be done about the gender pay gap in the UAE?

When looking at financial institutions specifically, much can be done in terms of the gender pay gap. It goes far beyond any government initiative and calls for a critical review of institutions’ own pay philosophy. Standard Chartered, for example, has put its own plan in place that states its commitment to making progress on gender diversity group wide. The bank has broadened its commitment globally and pledged to have women occupy 30% of its senior leadership roles by 2020. The current level is 26%.

In line with this commitment, Standard Chartered also has a clear vision within the bank: to create a culture of inclusion where talent and individuality is valued and respected. We want to be consciously inclusive, to respect and celebrate differences of opinion and diversity of thought. Only then can we be a great place to work, attract, retain and develop strong talent, bring the best out of our people, encourage innovation and make better decisions every day. The bank is on track to delivering this vision. 

Additionally, the Bank has taken a slightly different approach to raising awareness on the topic of gender disparity: through the means of art. Standard Chartered recently supported the exhibition, Art Gap, at World Art Dubai by bringing together a collection that includes pieces solely done by female artists. This allowed them to highlight the wage gap, specifically the gap which exists in the art industry.

Q: Is the UAE playing an active role in closing the gender pay gap?

The UAE has been a long-time supporter of equal rights. In fact, there is a legislation that was implemented in 1980, the UAE Labour Law, which states that a “working woman shall be entitled to the same wage as that of a working man, if she does the same work”.

Additionally, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2017 ranked the UAE 120 on a list of 144 countries for gender equality. The WEF’s report also placed the UAE second among Arab countries, marginally behind Tunisia, and the country ranks highly in other gender measures such as female literacy.

In 2015, the UAE also established the Gender Balance Council, giving women equal opportunities in the public sector, for which it created a Gender Inequality Index to measure progress. The current UAE Cabinet counts eight women among its 29 ministers.

Q: What initiatives have been put in place in the region to combat gender parity?

One way to combat the gender parity worldwide is through increasing the number of women in senior management roles. This can be achieved through education, an area where the UAE ranks highly in. In fact, female graduates now outnumber the men in the UAE, with 70% of Emiratis in federal higher education institutions being women. The focus on education for women has resulted in women handling half of the businesses in the small-to-medium enterprise sector in the UAE.

In addition to the UAE’s many initiatives towards implementing equal pay, governments in the wider GCC region are also seeking to level the playing field. For example, the desire to bring more women into the workplace with equal pay and conditions is being embedded in many of the Gulf nations’ visions for their future in the post oil era. Specifically, under the UAE’s Vision 2021, the country aims to become one of the 25 leading countries in the world in terms of gender equality, supported by initiatives such as the UAE Gender Balance Council and the UAE Gender Inequality Index.

Saudi Arabia is also paving the way for gender equality. In fact, it ranked 138 of the 144 nations surveyed by WEF for economic gender equality. Additionally, increasing female participation in the workforce is a key element of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. Aside from recent changes, such as allowing women to drive or attend football matches, childcare programmes have also been launched to help women into the workplace. Additionally, women are now able to set up businesses without requiring the consent of their husband or a male relative. This is a significant achievement for the Kingdom.

Q: How can companies benefit from increasing women’s position in the workplace?

There are many ways which companies can benefit from increasing women’s roles in the workplace. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing female equality could add between US$12 trillion to as much as US$28 trillion to global GDP by 2025. The same report found that US$2.7 trillion could be added to the Gulf region’s GDP by the same year – a 47% increase on current levels.

What is important is for the governments and corporates to work together and continue to pay an active role in facilitating by extending benefits such as maternity and paternity leave and introducing more flexible working arrangements.

Q&A by Pavneet Bajwa, head of Human Resources, Standard Chartered Bank UAE

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