Highlights – Allyship 2

Further to the first discussion on Allyship, we dove deeper in our second session, with a female perspective about the importance of businesses creating a proactive and supportive culture for women in leadership and how to overcome barriers with guest experts Mohamed Salah, Head of Enterprise and Industry Marketing, Microsoft, MEA and Mina Paul, Consultant, Russell Reynolds, in conversation with moderator Gregory Jasmin, Founder, Managing Director, X2X Group DMCC.

Gregory Jasmin: We need to have brave conversations about equal pay, equitable hiring, and promotions. Men and senior leaders who hold positions of power need to use their influence, knowledge, and resources to support women and marginalized communities. What does allyship mean to you?

Mina Paul: It means different things in different geographies. For example, in the US and France it means minorities and racism. Being an ally is a friend, who is supportive and shows empathy.

Mohamed Salah: It’s all about advocacy and how we can enable action towards equity.

Gregory Jasmin:  What does it mean to level the playing field?

Mina Paul: Being more aware and removing unconscious bias is the first step. And then taking the effort to better understand the differences between choices that men and women have and how they make them.

Mohamed Salah:  Cultural background plays a role in forming unconscious bias. We need to emphasis on hiring for talent, instead of for diversity and filling quotas. The latter can increase the bias that men feel towards women. We also need to create safe places to be able to talk through issues, even if they are sensitive and not politically correct.

Audience 1: Is there a shortage of talented women or is this a wrong assumption?

Mohamed Salah: There’s no shortage of talent, but there is a problem in finding this talent, because women are not always as vocal as men, so you cannot find them easily.

Gregory Jasmin: How do we bridge the gap?

Mohamed Salah: Part of the solution is we need to show role models and we need to talk about it. We faced a challenge in finding tech women to join Microsoft. We produced a social media campaign showing role models of women at Microsoft. The result was a 65% increase in the number of CVs we were able to receive from talented tech women, with hiring increasing by 22%. This is a real example of what big organisations can do and needs to be promoted and multiplied.

Mina Paul: It is important to empower your team and allow them to give you honest feedback and call out things that are wrong. We also need to allow every level within an organization to put requests and ideas to improve things, such as supporting women and men through maternity/paternity leave. The pandemic has triggered a collective awakening to fast track those conversations.

Gregory Jasmin: How do you view mentorship and sponsorship?

Mina Paul: Mentor is usually someone who gives advice, helps in your development and is part of your career journey. A sponsor is someone who sets you up for success within an organization – someone who publicly advocates and pushes for your promotion. An ally is a reciprocal relationship.

Gregory Jasmin: Women will get to a certain level and reach that glass ceiling unless they have a sponsor within the organization. What are your thoughts?

Mina Paul: You can have people who are allies and believe in you but may not become a sponsor for you, because they are too uncomfortable to put themselves in that position.

Mohamed Salah: It’s a continuous journey, and we all must start somewhere. From role models, allies, mentors, and sponsors.

Audience 2: Culture is set at the top. If the CEO, man, or woman, does not commit to driving inclusion, diversity, and gender parity at every level of the organization, it does not matter what toolkits we have, what formulas for success we have. What are your thoughts?

Mohamed Salah: Each one of us must play our part to change culture and can influence the view of even the CEO or the senior management.

Gregory Jasmin: Senior leaders can knock walls down and can make a greater impact. And though it takes everyone to change culture, leaders have the authority remove barriers that may hinder the transformation.

Mina Paul: There a big debate in organizations about belonging. The more you feel that you belong, the more will be your level of engagement and the harder you work for an organisation. This is especially important for the next generation and diversity and inclusion plans will impact a company’s ability to attract and retain talent.

Audience 3: In my company, we have now added belonging to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Belonging is the outcome of whether D&I is working.

Mina Paul: In terms of belonging, we decided to use Slack channels at a global level, where you can literally have authentic conversations with anyone. For example, a woman in a very high position in my organization, spoke about her own struggle as a white woman in America, and this gave others the courage to speak on that platform.