New Year’s resolution for sustainable prosperity: ‘I am going to prioritise gender parity’


We have entered the annual season of reflection – the cusp of old and new years where we contemplate our positions in life and business. We review to where we are and determine where we want to be. Resolutions may follow.

For the region’s business leaders at the end of 2022, thoughts will turn to ESG, sustainability, cybersecurity, inflation, and supply chains. But somewhere on that list must be diversity and inclusion, for the case has now been soundly made for the economics of a diverse and equitable workplace.

Perhaps you are one of those leaders. Perhaps you have heard of the pre-pandemic report by PwC that estimated that if OECD nations could reach the gender-parity levels of Sweden then overall OECD GDP could be boosted by $6 trillion – a figure higher than the annual GDP of Japan, the world’s third largest economy. And perhaps you are aware that the same report calculates a yearly loss of $575 billion for economies in the Middle East and North Africa because of legal and social barriers that prevent access to jobs for women.

That was then. Today, we stand in a place where we have learned much and achieved much following a series of crises, the latest being global inflation and persistent supply-chain issues. We have the technology (it has proven itself and then some) that will allow anyone to work from anywhere. Recovering from our shared shocks, businesses across the region are now obsessed with resilience, continuity, and innovation.

Data, processes, and technology all play their part. But if the past few years have taught UAE business leaders anything it is this: it all falls apart without people. The UAE is leading the region – and in some respects, the world – on gender parity. The country was ranked first among its Arab peers in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report 2022, and ranked top globally in five sub-indicators, including women’s participation in government and educational enrolment at all levels.

So, let’s keep going. Diverse workforces will fuel the recovery we all crave, allowing enterprises to create offerings for everyone, not just a select few. That’s why at Microsoft, we’ve grown our global female workforce by 64.9 per cent of those employees since 2017. Representation across racial and ethnic minorities increased 53.2 per cent in 2022 across our core workforce globally, with 7.8% identifying as having a disability.

No doubt, it would take many pages to list the studies that show the link between diversity and the bottom line. Not only must we deliver equitable remuneration; we must recognise the advantages of appointing women to senior leadership positions. If we ignore the figures and continue to evaluate the potential of our team members through the lens of our own narrow perspectives, we will continue to miss critical opportunities for our organisations, economies, and societies.

Let us question whether commanding, committed and over-ambitions managers and leaders are truly serving our businesses. Or should we create space for mentors that can assure, encourage, and inspire? In an age where the workforce is increasingly composed of digital natives who exhibit an aversion to authority, I know what kind I would pick.

In 2023, we can no longer ignore the strategic importance of gender parity. It is right there in the figures – diversity leads to prosperity. New Year’s resolutions are supposed to improve our lives through the healthy option, the moral option, or the ambitious option. Gender diversity is all three. Can we really afford to stay still?

Yvonne Chebib is a global partner solutions lead at Microsoft UAE. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.