Inside Kuwait telco Zain's new diversity efforts

The Kuwait-based telco seeks to diversify its workforce and empower more women.
Zain, Women, Equality, Diversity, Business, Tech, Empowerment, Kuwait, Middle East, Society, Workforce, Future, Employees, Culture

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Image: Zain's WE Forum.

Zain Group has hosted its second annual Women Empowerment (WE) Forum, with the goal of helping empower women both within the telco, in Kuwait, and the wider region.

Held on November 12 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kuwait, the event brought together 300 female participants from across the Zain Group, including the CEOs of each Zain operation and their respective Human Resources heads. The meeting showcased the progress and achievements to date, future plans and strategy, as well as highlighting how the efforts aligned to the UN’s Women Empowerment guidelines.

The initiative is the brainchild of Zain vice-chair and group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi, who in November 2017 inaugurated the initiative, aimed at achieving gender equality and empowering women in the organisation to act, lead, develop, and succeed. During the forum, Al Kharafi delivered keynote addresses on leadership development as well as holding discussions with the participants.

At the forum, two “regional first” announcements were made: flexible hours for working mothers with children up to kindergarten age, and the creation of a new position and appointment of Maryam Saif as Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer (CIDO) to drive new Empowerment initiatives  that define, enhance and continue to cultivate an environment of inclusiveness and equal opportunities.

Additionally, the forum also saw all Zain country operation CEOs participating in a panel session that focused on the importance of the Women Empowerment Initiative. Keynote presenters and coaches also participating at the Forum included Joanna Barsh, director emerita at McKinsey Global Consulting Group and renowned author of several top-selling management books, and Connie Dieken, the founder of Influence 360º, who was named one of the world’s top 10 executive coaches.

A year ago, Zain Group’s total headcount of women amounted to just 22.6% of the total workforce, with the representation of women in leadership roles within the organisation standing at just 14.5%.  To achieve parity, Zain’s WE programme – in partnership with McKinsey Global Consulting Group – developed a detailed roadmap and programme to address the systematic issues. One of the key goals: to increase the gender diversity of Zain’s workforce to at least 25% female by 2020.

There’s already been some progress. Female leadership at the director level and above has risen to 15.5% in the last 12 months. Similarly, in terms of recruitment of new employees, 29% are female – an increase from 21% a year ago. And there are now 11 women at chief level – up from only six a year ago.

While there’s still a long ways to go, of course, it’s a start. According to Al Kharafi: “The number of women starting their own businesses or taking leadership roles is increasing across the region in all sectors. Financial independence, economic growth, solution-based innovations, raising an entrepreneurial generation, creation and development is an intrinsic motivator for women, and you can observe this on a global scale. Today you find women leading or in key management roles in large conglomerates and start-ups, providing a different and dynamic management approach. This is incredibly inspiring and driving a new generation of future women leaders who will impact society positively on multiple levels.”

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