Women's Participation Crucial for MENA's Fight Against Climate Change

Women's Participation Crucial for MENA's Fight Against Climate Change

Connecting diversity and climate target priorities could accelerate transition to net zero emissions

Boardrooms that have the benefit of diverse opinions from women leaders, minority and ethnic groups, are expected to have an edge over competition when it comes to climate action.

This is according to a study commissioned by Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP), a multilateral energy focused financial institution, in collaboration with 30% Club, The American University in Cairo (AUC) and Arabian Business.

With the MENA region hosting COP 27, the study examines the role of women’s leadership in tackling climate change from leading voices across different sectors, offering a call to action for corporates to achieve diversity at the decision-making table.

It proposes practical solutions including mentoring, offering accelerator programs, and networking events which are helping women break the glass ceiling and gain access to decision-making roles.

Raeda Al Sarayreh, Director, Corporate Communications and Outreach, Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) commented: “Despite the recent momentum behind gender equality, there is a need for more women representation in conversations shaping boardroom agendas.

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"Our study reiterates the crucial importance of increasing the representation of women in boardrooms in driving corporate performance along with accelerating capabilities to fight against climate change.

"With COP 27 and 28 taking place in the MENA region, it is important that all stakeholders collaborate and formulate policies that encourage diversity.”

Catherine MacGregor, CEO ENGIE, said: “Change can come only when conscious steps are taken, and more women are encouraged to gain access to the decision-making table.

"There is no denying that a wider representation of women in parliament and likewise in the private sector could have a significant impact on policymaking and ensure greater responsiveness to everybody’s needs.

"Diverse perspectives and ways of thinking are necessary to face the complexity and instability of the current world. We need all talents and not only half of the population to succeed in the fight towards a sustainable economy.”

Connecting diversity and climate target priorities could accelerate transition to net zero emissions

The study highlights the need for businesses to include female representation in their organizations if they are serious about meeting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Despite commendable initiatives around gender diversity in the MENA region, industry data suggests that over $575 billion is lost annually due to legal and social barriers that exist for women’s access to jobs and they are often excluded from many high-level government and corporate discussions on climate related issues.

Global research has also proven that businesses can attain optimal outcomes when management teams have a gender ratio of 40 percent to 60% of women within the work setting.

Therefore, women perspective and actions on climate change can be key to accelerating the goal of reaching net zero.

Female investors and policymakers are twice as likely to consider ESG compared to their male counterparts

According to the study, on the corporate and public level, female investors and policymakers are twice as likely to consider ESG investing as compared to their male counterparts.

In a review of over 15 studies conducted in different parts of the world, it was found that the presence of women in conservation and natural resource management resulted in stricter and more sustainable extraction rules, greater compliance, more transparency and accountability, and better conflict resolution.

Catherine MacGregor, CEO, Engie, revealed that her organization has been pursuing a Fifty-Fifty program, which aims to create the necessary conditions to achieve managerial parity by 2030.

She said: “While rethinking how we want to be led as a group, Engie has instituted various new training and coaching programs, reviewed policies such as monitoring equal pay, and promoted networking events to ensure that we meet our target for gender parity within this decade.”

Closing gender gap is more important than ever

Women, girls and marginalized communities are significantly impacted by climate change, and they must be involved in the design and implementation of climate response actions to ensure the equal sharing of benefits.

In the region, UAE and Egypt are prime examples of women leading the fight against climate change at the highest level. For instance, Egypt’s Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, was the lead author on a chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on desertification in 2017 and co-chaired finance talks at COP 26.

Similarly, in the UAE, the government has been taking conscious steps to promote gender equality and access of women to leadership roles.

Today, about 53% of the UAE's total workforce consists of women, around two-third government jobs are held by women. In the government, a third of the portfolios are with women.

Gender diversity on boards can boost an organization’s performance

Organizations with strong female representation at board and top-management levels perform better than those without, and that gender-diverse boards have a positive impact on performance, says Dr. Ghada Howaidy, Associate Dean Executive Education at American University in Cairo, and founder of the Women on Boards Observatory.

Dr. Howaidy added: “Diversity is important because it means that we would look at issues such as ESG with a different perspective. A diverse boardroom would be better equipped to face challenges thrown by climate change or other risks.”

Supporting her views, Ann Cairns, Global Chair of the 30% Club and Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard, said: “In the UK, we’re now at 40 percent women on the boards of the FTSE 100 and we are on course to reach parity in the next few years.

However, there are many countries where the percentage of female board members has only just reached double digits. There is much more work still to do to achieve gender equality in business.”

Supporting women’s mentorship programs and networking events can move the needle on equality

According to the study, networking groups are playing an inspiring role in empowering women and encouraging them to have a vision for their success.

Similarly offering women access to mentorship programs can help pave their path towards career growth. These programs can be replicated throughout the region through local chapters or indigenous clubs.

For instance, Women on Boards Observatory Egypt, the 30% Club, and Aurora50 are programs that are helping groom women for successful careers.

Farah Foustok, CEO of Lazard Asset Management GCC and founder of the 30% Club MENA, concluded: “One of the biggest impediments to the career progression of women is legacy structures and practices in organizations.

In our MENA office, we have almost 50 percent women, with 25 percent in leadership roles.

"We believe in identifying the need for mentorship and in having female mentors to help accelerate the personal and professional development of our young female workforce.”

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