'Significant headway' is being made with equal pay act, says top UAE female CEO

'Significant headway' is being made with equal pay act, says top UAE female CEO
Above: HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the UAE,  with Her Excellency Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy at the Gender Balance Index in 2017. 

Last week, by decree of His Highness President Sheikh Khalifa, an equal pay law between men and women was passed in the UAE for those working in the private sector.

The law states that “female employees shall receive wages equal to that of males if they perform the same work or another of equal value”.

It’s a move, which the UAE CEO of Standard Chartered, Rola Abu Manneh, believes will create “significant headway” for the conversation around gender equity across the wider region.

She tells Emirates Woman, she’s hoping this will further be able to crack the glass ceiling in the region for women.

“It opens up a world of opportunity for female success,” Manneh tells EW. “I believe that this law will open numerous doors for women looking to crack the glass ceiling and, as a result, we are set to witness a surge in female leadership across the UAE’s private sector.

“Women are a key pillar of social and economic development across the Emirates and it is encouraging to see that the UAE government has attested to this fact.”

While she notes there’s “still a long way to go” in order to create equal access for opportunities for women, the law is a promising move towards that.

EW discussed further her reaction to the passing of the law, how she intends to see this through at Standard Chartered and the responsibility she has as a female leader in finance.

What was your reaction when you heard this legislation had been passed?

When the legislation was initially introduced in 2018, I was overcome with pride. I had just taken on my role as CEO of Standard Chartered UAE and had felt tremendously proud of the UAE government’s efforts to progress gender equity in the workplace. I was equally as hopeful that this milestone act would positively impact the UAE’s corporate landscape for decades to come.

Now that the act has come to fruition, my pride in being both a UAE national and a female leader has only been further reinforced. I commend the UAE government’s pioneering vision and ongoing efforts to ensure gender equity in the workplace and bolstering equal opportunity for both men and women in this regard. A truly historic moment!

How will you ensure this is implemented in Standard Chartered?

At the Bank, we take gender equality very seriously and we believe that inclusion is an organisational strength. The Bank has already placed a tremendous focus on ensuring men and women are seen as equals across the board, be it through the onboarding process, compensation, opportunity or representation.

For decades, Standard Chartered has taken a strategic direction to prioritising gender diversity and equality and this is present throughout its global operations. In line with this, we have committed to ensuring that women occupy 30 per cent of our top-four levels of management by the end of 2020. What’s more, two of our four regions, and a number of our large markets including China, Hong Kong, India, Nigeria, and the UAE are led by female CEOs. I am proud to be one of them.

Like the UAE, at the Bank, we too are continuously prioritising the integration of new policies and commitments to drive our vision forward.

What is your commitment to female employees at Standard Chartered to ensure they continue to prosper in their careers?

At the Bank, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our operations and remain a focal point of ensuring employee wellbeing. I believe that diversity is getting the mix right, while inclusion is making the mix work.

We are always looking to improve our workplace by introducing wellness, work-life balance, and career opportunities, aimed to be the country’s employer of choice.

Standard Chartered has been a key contributor to the gender equality movement and has introduced a number of measures that ensure women are able to progress in their career paths while also fulfilling other duties. This is reflective in our policies and procedures, from the time we advertise a job to the selection criteria, the interview and the onboarding process. We have taken the initiative of increasing maternity leave days from 90 calendar days to 140 calendar days, with new fathers getting 10 days that can be used anytime in the first year, further reinforcing our commitment to gender equity. Derived from our brand promise ‘Here for good’, we believe that inclusion is an organisational strength, which in turn will have a positive impact on key aspects of the bank’s operational and managerial performance. D&I is paramount to unlocking innovation in the organisation. That’s how I see it.

As a female leader in finance do you feel a responsibility to lead the way when it comes to equality?

Of course. Women, including myself, who were able to progress in their careers and achieve senior leadership positions, in what are considered as male-dominated fields, play an integral role in leveraging their years of experience and expertise to advocate for the gender equality cause. As such, I feel very strongly that I have an innate and moral responsibility to stand in solidarity against unconscious bias and inequal opportunity in the workplace.

Throughout my career, I have championed women empowerment and female entrepreneurship through various initiatives. I will continue to exercise my position in service of women so that they are not hindered by corporate hurdles or stereotypes and are able to achieve their full potential.

One thing that I would like to highlight here is the fact that women will also need to find their seat at the table and make their voices heard! They need to earn that seat. It is down to them to make that happen.

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Feature Image: Dubai Media Office