Expo 2020: Gender Equality

Joining forces at the UN Hub for Gender Equality

Challenges, Opportunities and Best Practices at Expo 2020

  • Global Compact Local Networks gathered at UN Hub at Mission Possible – Opportunity District, EXPO 2020 for a regional panel discussion on advancing gender equality.
  • Target Gender Equality by the UN Global Compact has become an essential framework to support companies when striving for gender equality in the workplace, marketplace, and community.
  • Gender Equality has become a key priority for most businesses worldwide and many of them are working towards setting and reaching ambitious corporate targets for women’s representation and leadership.


Dubai, UAE, November 21 – On Sunday, November 21, the Global Compact local networks of UAE, Lebanon, and Jordan joined forces at the UN Hub – Expo 2020 in Dubai for a panel session focused on Gender Equality in the context of the Arab World. The session gathered a regional panel of experts to talk about advancing SDG 5 on Gender Equality in the workplace and communities.

As global movements for Gender Equality are reaching all corners of the world, and as the pandemic has pushed back the gender agenda by 20 to 30 years, the need to advocate for women’s empowerment has become crucial today. 

The session was opened by the Executive Director of the Global Compact Network UAE, Mrs. Rachel Panaino who welcomed the participants and introduced the objective behind this session. 

Mrs. Layla AlQasim then followed with opening remarks for the session. As a Women’s Empowerment Principles specialist, she went over the gender landscape in the Middle East in terms of opportunities and challenges. She also informed the audience about the benefits of rolling out the Target Gender Equality, a programme by the UN Global Compact. 

The session was moderated by Mrs. Ayla Bajwa, Founder of ampUz and Head of Sustainability and Impact at DP World. The lineup of speakers included four experts from a range of organizations and perspectives, which made it possible to scale the progress on gender equality through various lenses. The one-hour panel covered a number of topics around gender equality in the Arab World. It started by highlighting gender-responsive policies implemented in the workplace and how companies bring these policies to life by turning their commitments into implementations. 

Mrs. Lamisse Muhtaseb spoke about factors that Deloitte is initiating to facilitate greater gender diversity in leadership. “A number of policies and practices have been developed in a number of areas and that does include pay, benefits, progression but one thing that is truly day-to-day is the opportunities that are given to women in the workplace.” 

Women continue to encounter challenges when it comes to advancing in the workplace—and in many facets of society. “Our projects are in developing countries, emerging markets, and they tend to be located in rural areas. Having little exposure to international development and not meeting high-level job requirements makes women trying to join the workforce a big challenge” said Patricia Gimenez Marti, Environment & Social Manager at Alcazar Energy. Leadership opportunities will need to be created equally by increasing jobs that offer career advancement. Today, women still get offered fewer of the high visibility, mission-critical roles, and international experiences that are important to reaching the highest levels of leadership.

The discussion then moved towards sharing success stories and showcasing examples from their companies that demonstrate the advancement and contribution of women’s leadership within the organization. Sharing best practices helped open further discussion on how vital it is to leverage the culture of business in order to drive change by investing deeply in all aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Mr. Raji Hattar, Chief Sustainability Officer at Aramex shared how the company implemented a system in which employees and recruits are evaluated solely based on their competencies and not their gender, in any role that might be. Moving away from the conspiracy of setting the quota, and instead focusing on implementing daily aspects that give more space for inclusive leadership behaviors within the organization is a key aspect of delivering on gender policies. 

Ms. Christina Khater, Founder and Managing Director of Kristie’s Lab emphasized the importance of employee growth and development for a greater impact on both entities. “We should give the platform for everyone to feel that they matter and they are part of a second family”.

“There’s no one cookie-cutter approach. The model is different in consideration of the size of your business, the industry of your business, in which your KPIs might look different. And so with that, what the common denominator this conversation has brought is how elevated this dialogue has been. We are all human, we all want the same things, which is to be seen, to be heard, to have opportunities, and to have pathways to growth. Any man or woman will agree that this is what they want. However, their pathways will look different.” Ayla Bajwa, Founder of ampUz and Head of Sustainability and Impact at DP World. 

Gender-responsive procurement can make an enormous impact which accelerates the inclusion of women throughout the supply chain. Advocating for women entrepreneurs as the role models needed by the economy and the society and emphasizing the critical mission for all businesses worldwide. This will encourage the public and private sectors to make inclusiveness a priority and a catalyst for the systemic change that women need. Supporting women entrepreneurs is critical for sustainable growth.


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