Middle East employers “are committed to equality”

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 11 Nov 2015

Poll suggests staff believe businesses are open-minded and collaborative, though discrimination remains

The state of diversity across Middle East workplaces has been much discussed, but a new poll suggests employers are more open-minded to different types of employee – both in terms of demographics and diversity of thought – than was previously thought.
The survey, from Bayt.com, found that 80 per cent of professionals agree that their organisation is committed to equality among its staff, and 78 per cent feel their employer is good at connecting multiple tasks and ideas together in a novel way.
A large number of employees (86 per cent) think their organisation is open and dedicated to considering new ideas, and around half say they are comfortable sharing their views at work (an additional 36 per cent describe themselves as only comfortable to a certain extent).
Marjola Rintjema, lead consultant for communication and change management at professional services company Towers Watson, said: “In terms of workforce composition the UAE is very diverse, especially in terms of nationality and cultural background. This has some great advantages, but working with people from so many different cultures also creates a challenge. Being sensitive and unbiased to cultural differences, and being aware of one’s own values and preferences, helps to leverage the various viewpoints and experiences a diverse workforce brings with it.”
The responsibility for managing diversity in Middle Eastern companies varies greatly. Only 6 per cent of professionals reported that their organisation has a dedicated diversity team. Meanwhile, 40 per cent of respondents think that nurturing diversity is the job of the CEO, managers and other team leaders, while 15 per cent believe it is down to the HR department. Just 17 per cent think diversity is an individual responsibility, while 12 per cent feel that it belongs to everyone. Around 8 per cent say no one has responsibility for managing diversity.
“A special diversity team can certainly help create more focus on diversity,” said Rintjema. “It is, however, primarily a management responsibility to encourage and foster an inclusive workplace. Clearly defined values such as respect and cultural sensitivity can support the organisation putting it into practice.”
Despite the high number of polled professionals agreeing that their company encourages diversity, one in five respondents said they think race, culture or gender may still be causes for discrimination in their workplace. A fifth (20 per cent) believe gender is their organisation’s weakest point and 18 per cent point to nationality, ahead of age (9 per cent) and disability (8 per cent).