- MEA telco Zain launches new HR policy supporting working mothers
- Its Women Empowerment drive aims to create a gender diverse workforce
- Reports show the telecoms Gender Gap shows no signs of closing
- “Gap between those working hard to improve gender balance and those doing very little, has never been more obvious”
Zain Group, which has telecoms operations in eight markets across Middle East and Africa, has introduced what it says is “one of the most progressive and innovative human resources policies in the region”, providing female employees who become new mothers with four months of paid maternity leave, with a flexible schedule for returning to work. It follows the recent creation of a Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer role within the Group to support a gender diverse workforce.
Bravo for Zain, another small step forward but there is still a very long way to go. Leadership is very much a top-down affair, and all changes to a corporation’s culture must be supported and reflected by the senior management and Board. Yet the number of women in senior Board and management positions is still way behind parity. A report from about a year ago from the GSMA and recruitment firm Russell Reynolds Associates (and let’s hope there’s an update published at next month’s MWC event) calculates that only 12 per cent of executives at telecoms companies are women – almost half the norm for the technology sector, which is shocking. It found that a slightly better 19 per cent of telecoms Board members were women. Slightly better, but still woeful.
An independent UK Government review was set up in 2016 to increase the number of women in senior positions in FTSE 350 companies. The Hampton-Alexander Review set a target of a minimum of 33 per cent women’s representation on their Boards by 2020.
“All FTSE companies adrift from 33 per cent women’s representation on their Boards and in leadership, need to rise to today’s challenge from the investment community and take swift action to address the lack of women in their top teams,” commented Review Chair Sir Philip Hampton. “The gap between those working hard to improve gender balance and those doing very little, has never been more obvious.”
Returning to our own industry, the annual barometer of all things telecoms is the MWC event in Barcelona every February. At the 2018 event, 24 per cent of attendees were female, while the number increased slightly to 28 per cent for speakers. Of the 41 keynoters, only 12 were women. In fact, an enlightening graphic from Quartz shows that these figures are somewhat misleading, as half of the women listed as speaking at keynote sessions were on a single panel (focused on women in telecoms) on the final day…
MWC does better than most, but still the gender gap shows no sign of closing yet. Looking at this year’s line-up so far (not yet finalised) shows that seven out of 20 keynotes (35 per cent) are women, and an estimated 136 out of 470 speakers overall are women (29 per cent).
But there is a ray of light; Russell Reynolds Associates found that there is quite good diversity at the lower levels of the telecoms workforce – in some regions at least. At the time of the survey, in Europe, 43 per cent of junior roles were occupied by women. In North America this figure was 40 per cent, although in Asia Pacific it plummeted to 28 per cent. However, just to add a final damper on the situation, this talent is reportedly not being developed and retained to an executive level.
Original Press Release:
Zain Group introduces revolutionary HR policy embracing working mothers
Kuwait – 20 January, 2019
Zain Group, a leading digital lifestyle provider in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, has introduced one of the most progressive and innovative human resources policies in the region, providing female employees who become new mothers with four months of paid maternity leave, with a flexible schedule for returning to work.
This restructured leave policy, which falls under the Human Resources Policy Transformation theme, will be rolled out as a Group-wide initiative ensuring a unified approach to the program.
The new policy soon follows the creation of a new senior position within the organization, namely Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, to drive Empowerment initiatives that define, enhance and continue to cultivate an equitable work environment within all Zain operations.
The introduction of flexible working models has also been designed including six-hour work weeks for mothers with children up to four years old and an optional compressed working week enabling working mothers to work more hours over a compressed week to avail one day off.
The incoming flexible work program will complement Zain Group’s recruitment, retention and development efforts, as the company shows itself to be an organization in tune with the needs of female employees to balance their careers with their family responsibilities.
The announcement follows the hosting of the second annual Gender Diversity (WE) conference held in Kuwait in November 2018, where Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi, the brainchild of the WE initiative, first announced the significant regional first regarding the application of flexible hours for working mothers with children up to the age of four years.
Commenting on the new HR policy, Bader Al-Kharafi said, “As a leading innovative corporate entity in the region, it is incumbent on us to providing more supportive working environments for female employees and forging an inclusive working environment.”
He continued, “There are very few companies globally that offer a uniform family leave policy and we are proud to be bringing new standards of human resources support and implementation to the region. As an organization we are already well on the path to empowering our female counterparts on numerous levels, and this new maternity leave and flexible hours policy for working mothers will add further momentum to our efforts.”
Once the new HR policy is fully implemented, Zain Group’s Human Resources team will measure the impact and effect of the policy, through annual engagement surveys, the cost benefit involved such recruitment and retention and the number of returning mothers.
Zain’s WE program has already scored major successes in raising the profile of women in the organization, with the organization working towards increasing female leadership positions within the organization from 14.5% to 25% by 2020; and ultimately evolving towards a gender diverse workforce.
Since Zain’s WE initiative official launch in November 2017, it has achieved the following accomplishments:
- Female leadership, director and above at Zain Group has grown from 14.5% to 15.5% in one year
- Female recruitment into Zain across all operations grew from 21% of total recruitment to 29%
- The number of women at Chief level increased from 6 to 11, an 83% increase
- 33 high potential female leaders have been identified to form the Centered Leaders program
- 61 Women Empowerment Ambassadors have been onboarded and tasked with action planning
- Zain signed up to the UN Women Empowerment Principles and communicated this to all 6,000 employees
- Introduced a Women Empowerment communications app with 300 employees already using it
- Women Empowerment embedded into the board of director’s agenda and placed on CEO Scorecards
- Two talented women from Zain operations sponsored to attend MBA programs at ESADE, Barcelona
Bader Al Kharafi concluded by reiterating his conviction in the WE initiative: “I firmly believe that championing gender diversity at Zain will create competitive differentiation, fast-track our strategic ambitions of unlocking the tremendous growth opportunities in the digital arena and at the same time improve the company’s bottom line.”
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