Women’s equality ‘to give Kingdom $400bn boost by 2030’

Dr. Khaled Al-Dhaher, country managing director for Accenture in Saudi Arabia and Dawn Metcalfe, an author and workplace culture advisor. (Accenture/Supplied)
Dr. Khaled Al-Dhaher, country managing director for Accenture in Saudi Arabia and Dawn Metcalfe, an author and workplace culture advisor. (Accenture/Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 05 December 2020

Women’s equality ‘to give Kingdom $400bn boost by 2030’

Dr. Khaled Al-Dhaher, country managing director for Accenture in Saudi Arabia and Dawn Metcalfe, an author and workplace culture advisor. (Accenture/Supplied)
  • Innovation, productivity benefit from workplace reforms, report says

JEDDAH: Establishing work environments with genuine equality between male and female employees will encourage innovation and productivity, and could boost Saudi Arabia’s GDP (gross domestic product) by up to $400 billion over the next decade, according to new research.

Saudi companies that have more equality for men and women perform better overall, according to a joint report published in November by global professional services company Accenture and the Riyadh-based Al-Nahda Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the socioeconomic empowerment of women.

The “Women in the KSA Workforce” report found that the improvements that create a culture of equality between the sexes benefit not only women but also companies overall. This should encourage Saudi companies to invest more in training women and creating an environment that is welcoming and supportive, it added.

As part of the report, Al-Nahda observed that much has changed in the past decade for Saudi working women. In 2009, 14 percent of Saudi women over 15 worked mostly in the public sector, while occupying only 8.5 percent of private sector jobs. Today, they make up 32 percent of the private sector.

The research showed that in the past many obstacles stopped women from entering the workforce, including familial and spousal obligations and restrictions, unequal pay, and a lack of affordable child care services and transportation.

However, the Kingdom has been pushing women’s empowerment since announcing its goals for Vision 2030, lifting a ban on driving, introducing child care programs allowing women to travel without their guardian’s consent.

Khaled Al-Dhaher, country managing director for Accenture in Saudi Arabia, said that leadership needs to come from senior managers.

“In Saudi Arabia, a critical starting point for the career advancement of women is at the top. Our research concludes that a positive tone from the top of the organization goes a long way in setting out both the moral and commercial case for gender equality,” he said.

“Ultimately, a positive workplace culture facilitates a shift in the collective corporate mindset — and, in turn, enables a resilient economy that is less dependent on oil and more reliant on a young and emerging generation ready to seize the limitless opportunities of the future.”

Organizations that follow that module, where the top 10 percent are mostly equal, have female employees with ambition and confidence levels that are 23 percent higher than average and have a 62 percent likelihood of reaching managerial positions.

Such environments also encourage innovation among employees of both genders, Al-Dhaher said. Their ability to be creative is 50 percent higher than organizations that are seen as less equal for women.

In the past three years, Accenture has been working on redefining the cultural reset needed to boost the country’s economy. In a survey of 70,000 employees, the company found five major “cultural actions” that can help the Kingdom create greater equality.

“Our analysis highlights three areas of focus: Building more gender-diverse senior leadership teams; setting targets on gender diversity, measuring and sharing progress; and creating environments in which women ‘have a voice.’ In environments that pull these together, women are 33 percent more likely to advance to manager level and beyond — and their levels of ambition and confidence rise by 7 percent. Employee innovation mindset also rises by 4 percent,” Al-Dhaher said.

Protecting women against discrimination, harassment and unethical behavior, and creating an environment where they feel comfortable reporting such misconduct has boosted ambition and confidence by 21 percent in organizations where this is carried. Women employees’ likelihood of advancement soared by 15 percent.

Additional factors include providing employees with a flexible work environment, supporting parental leave for both genders, and investing in training programs for both genders. According to Accenture’s survey, 88 percent of Saudi women agreed that getting the proper training that helps advance their skillset was important to them, but only 25 percent of employers agreed.

The mistakes companies make in this area are similar around the world, according to author and workplace culture adviser Dawn Metcalfe, who has worked as a consultant with Saudi companies for more than a decade. Companies tend to consider a few successful cases as enough to set women up in the work environment, when there is much more to be done, she said.

“We (companies) don’t think about the systemic issues. We don’t do enough to remove obstacles, to make sure that all the people who could have an influence understand why this is in their best interest,” she told Arab News.

“We are not empowering women here. Women are fine. We’re empowering a country by making sure that 50 percent (51 percent globally) of its asset are being fully utilized,” she added.

Metcalfe said the challenges that companies face are also universal. In her words, history seems to be the biggest one.

“We have a long history of the same people always being in charge, and those have always been men. The whole system is set up for men,” she said.

Change can only happen once more women are seen at senior levels, Metcalfe added. Once women start taking leadership positions, they will hire more women, while men will begin to shift their misconceptions about women in a working environment the more they are exposed to working with female colleagues.

“Saudi companies need to do the same thing as every other company (in order to establish a workforce that is equal and creative for women). If something is important in business, then we put resources behind it, targets against it and hold people accountable.”

Empowering women will not be achieved by chanting the words. Metcalfe said companies need to invest in women and to increase the representation of women in the workforce by creating budgets that empower them. Only then will the $400 billion boost to Saudi GDP be achieved by 2030.


Cure for cancer the next target for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inventor Ugur Sahin

Cure for cancer the next target for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inventor Ugur Sahin
Updated 08 March 2021

Cure for cancer the next target for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inventor Ugur Sahin

Cure for cancer the next target for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inventor Ugur Sahin
  • Turkish-German scientist and entrepreneur envisions use of techniques developed for COVID-19 fight in successful cancer treatment
  • Sahin says a new vaccine version would be more easily transportable and more effective against new COVID-19 variants

DUBAI: The man who invented the first vaccine against the deadly coronavirus is prioritizing a cure for cancer as his post-pandemic target.

Ugur Sahin, the co-founder and chief executive of BioNTech, the firm which developed the earliest authorized vaccine in partnership with Pfizer, told Arab News that successful cancer treatment, using similar techniques he developed in the fight against COVID-19, was his next goal.

Sahin, who developed the vaccine along with his wife Ozlem Tureci, who is BioNTech’s chief medical officer, was appearing in the latest episode of Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with leading global policy-makers and business people.

“Definitely. The success now with our COVID-19 vaccine is of course transformative for the company, and we see that as a great opportunity,” he said

 

Sahin also spoke of the “next generation” of COVID vaccine his company is developing, the need for a fairer system of global distribution of the existing vaccine, and the possibility that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be manufactured in the Middle East.

BioNTech began life as a company focused on using revolutionary mRNA technology to develop new medical weapons in the fight against cancer, and Sahin said that was his next goal once the pandemic had been defeated. The success of the COVID-19 vaccine has proved a vindication of his methods, and given BioNTech the financial resources to pursue the cancer treatment.

“We see that as a great opportunity, and also an obligation to think in an even bigger fashion about our vision, and how we could accelerate our cancer program and make it more available,” he said.

Sahin, who is the son of Turkish immigrants to Germany, where BioNTech is based, revealed that a new version of the COVID-19 vaccine could be ready soon, one that is more easily transportable and which could deal more effectively with the more deadly variants of the disease that are appearing in different parts of the world.

“We started to manufacture our vaccine and it came at the beginning with a challenge. We have a vaccine which has to be kept at minus 70 degrees. It’s not yet suitable for supply to all regions on the planet,” he said.

“But we are working on better conditions. We have, most recently, published that we can also start at minus 20 and we will continue to work on that and our aim is really to make our vaccine available — 2 billion doses and maybe even more in 2021 — including not only developed countries but also developing countries.” 

 

The “next generation” of the vaccine could be stored and transported at temperatures as high as minus 2 to minus 8 degrees, he said.

Sahin said that the existing vaccine was also expected to be effective against the South African variant of the virus, which is more transmissible and leads to higher fatality rates, but he added that there was still more testing to be done and data analyzed on the new variants.

Distributing the vaccine more fairly is a challenge, he admitted. “Fairness is always a question of logistics and also accessibility. Our goal when we started to develop this vaccine — and this is in the center of our hearts — is to make our vaccine available worldwide to everyone who needs it,” he said.

He also believes that a more innovative and entrepreneurial approach is needed to solve the problems of distribution of the vaccine to poorer parts of the world.

“We should really ask the question: How can we work together to make that possible?” Sahin said. “That's for some of the future goals, to really understand what are the limitations. For example, for the vaccine supply now, I really want to understand what is the limitation to make our vaccine available to people everywhere,” he said.

One of the key questions in the minds of economic and medical policymakers is when the increasing level of vaccination will begin to bring economic life back to normal after the damaging lockdowns of the past year. “it indeed depends on the rollout. We have this magic number of about 60 to 70 percent of people being vaccinated to start to see a herd immunity, but we are already starting to see the first effects of the vaccinations, with countries starting to vaccinate elderly people.

 

“So the first effect is that the hospitalizations are dropping in the vaccinated people and that's the first very important aspect — to get the reduction of hospitalization and mortality, and later on get also a better control of infections,” Sahin said.

On the problem of persuading people reluctant to have the vaccine, he said: “We have to continue to communicate the benefits we are seeing. This could help convince people.”

BioNTech partnered with US pharmaceuticals group Pfizer when the potential of its vaccine was in the early stages, optimizing the Americans’ global network for clinical trials, supply and regulatory know-how.

“So, we combined our skills and we are working together, driven by science. At the end of the day, we all want to accomplish the same: We want to develop the vaccine as soon as possible, we want to produce as much as possible, and of course we want to have a safe and effective vaccine,” he said.

Outside the US, the vaccine is manufactured at BioNTech facilities in Europe and transported internationally. A new facility in the German town of Marburg is being prepared to manufacture the vaccine in greater numbers, but Sahin explained the long and complex work required in setting up facilities overseas.

 

“It will take us about eight months until we will get out the first vaccines from Marburg. So, this is really the minimal time that would be required. It does not help in the early phase of the pandemic to set up new factories somewhere else. Every factory that we are now starting to consider will help us only in mid-2022,” he said.

The vaccine has been authorized and delivered early in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East, and two countries in the region — Israel and the UAE — top the world tables for the highest proportion of their populations already vaccinated.

Sahin said that the region could be the location of future manufacturing facilities, for the COVID-19 vaccine or for other, potentially more devastating viruses.

“What this pandemic taught us is very clear. It was somehow expected by experts, since more than 20 years, that this could happen. It happened and we were not well prepared, the world was not well prepared. This is a bad pandemic, but it's not the worst possible pandemic,” he said.

 

Sahin declined to comment on the qualities of rival vaccines available. “This is not a race. If it is a race, it’s against the virus, and I'm really happy about that,” he said.

“I had predicted that we will need multiple vaccine developers to participate and to ensure that everyone on the planet is able to get a vaccine, and this is happening.

“It is wonderful to see that all kinds of international collaborations have come up not only with one vaccine, but there are multiple vaccines.”

Sahin and Ozlem, who were named “People of the Year 2020” for their breakthrough in developing the first authorized vaccine, also joined the ranks of the world’s billionaires as the value of the company soared on news of the vaccine.

The founders of BioNTech have strong views on the value of philanthropy in the fight against life-threatening diseases, as rich and successful entrepreneurs increasingly donate a large proportion of their wealth to medical research.

“It is extremely important. We have to understand everyone can do something, and the way we would like to position our company is to become a useful company with a philanthropic vision. At the end of the day the question is: How can we ensure that the things we do are done for the benefit of humanity,” Sahin said.

“I don't see a clear reason why, for example, people living in Africa should not benefit from modern cancer treatments.”

_____________

Twitter: @frankkanedubai

 

 

 

 

 


BNP Paribas appoints female Saudi country chief

BNP Paribas appoints female Saudi country chief
Updated 07 March 2021

BNP Paribas appoints female Saudi country chief

BNP Paribas appoints female Saudi country chief
  • Al-Asmari will oversee the bank’s national commercial strategy
  • She will also be responsible for expanding the bank’s product and service work in all CIB segments, including sustainable finance

JEDDAH: BNP Paribas has appointed Reema Al-Asmari as head of territory for Saudi Arabia, bolstering the French bank’s corporate and investment banking (CIB) presence in the Kingdom.
She will oversee the bank’s national commercial strategy, with a focus on strengthening relationships with strategic clients, multinational corporations and government-related entities.
She will also be responsible for expanding the bank’s product and service work in all CIB segments, including sustainable finance.
Amine Bel Hadj Soulami — head of BNP Paribas Middle East and Africa (MEA), and a member of the BNP Paribas MEA Executive Committee — said: “We are pleased to have Reema on board, strengthening our team with her in-depth knowledge of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Soulami added: “BNP Paribas has long recognized the Kingdom’s vital role in the overall development of the region, since the bank became operational there in 2005.”
Al-Asmari joins BNP Paribas from Natixis, where she was CEO for Saudi Arabia. She previously worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in the Kingdom for nine years, where she worked as treasury services country head.
Her appointment comes as a report by ratings agency Moody’s found that rising female participation in the labor force has the potential to boost Saudi Arabia’s non-oil growth and improve average household incomes.
The Kingdom published its latest labor market survey in February and showed that Saudi women’s workforce participation rose to 31.3 percent in the third quarter of 2020, up from 26 percent at the end of 2019. The figure is almost double what it was in 2016.
Under the Vision 2030 reform plan, Saudi Arabia aims for female participation in the labor force to be at 30 percent by 2030, a target it has now achieved ahead of schedule.
The elimination of the decades-old ban on women driving was the first big step. The government also created a subsidy program to help women with work-related commuting and childcare expenses.


Saudi central bank extends deferred payment, guaranteed financing programs

Saudi central bank extends deferred payment, guaranteed financing programs
Updated 07 March 2021

Saudi central bank extends deferred payment, guaranteed financing programs

Saudi central bank extends deferred payment, guaranteed financing programs
  • Three month extension for deferred payment program
  • Part of package to support private sector

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s central bank (SAMA) said on Sunday that it had extended a deferred payment program to support private sector financing for an additional three months until June 30 as part of measures to stem the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.
SAMA said that the decision aims “to empower the financial sector to play its role in supporting the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) sector, and contribute to supporting economic growth and preserving employment in the private sector.”
A statement published on the central bank website also said a guaranteed financing program had been extended for an additional year until March 14, 2022 to support small and medium enterprises.
SAMA said the extensions are also aimed at enhancing the central bank’s contribution in supporting MSMEs, and enabling them to overcome the challenges that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic and the precautionary measures adopted to confront them.
The decision is in line with the central bank’s role in “maintaining monetary stability, supporting the stability of the financial sector, enhancing confidence, supporting economic growth, and mitigating the financial and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic on various economic activities.”
SAMA said around 99,000 contracts have benefited from the deferred payment program since March 14, 2020, amounting to SR124 billion ($33.04 billion).
It also said that over 5,000 contracts benefited from the guaranteed financing program, valuing over SR8 billion.

(With Reuters)


Saudi Arabia’s rising female labor force defies global pandemic trend

Saudi Arabia’s rising female labor force defies global pandemic trend
Updated 07 March 2021

Saudi Arabia’s rising female labor force defies global pandemic trend

Saudi Arabia’s rising female labor force defies global pandemic trend
  • The Kingdom’s latest labor market survey in February showed that women’s participation rose to 31.3 percent in the third quarter of 2020
  • The figure is almost double what it was in 2016

JEDDAH: Rising female participation in Saudi Arabia’s labor force could boost non-oil growth and improve average household incomes in the country, according to a report by Moody’s rating agency.
The Kingdom’s latest labor market survey in February showed that women’s participation rose to 31.3 percent in the third quarter of 2020, up from 26 percent at the end of 2019. While the number is still one of the lowest in the world, the Kingdom is making progress as the figure is almost double what it was in 2016.
Last year’s increase came as a surprise given the pandemic, which has resulted in a decrease in female labor force participation in most parts of the world, with large numbers of women facing increased childcare responsibilities as a result of lockdowns and school closures.
This shows that the increase in female labor force participation in Saudi Arabia is likely to continue, the Moody’s report said.
Under the Vision 2030 goals, Saudi Arabia aims for female participation in the labor force to be at 30 percent by 2030, a target it has achieved ahead of schedule.
The elimination of the decades-old ban on women driving was the first big step, but the government also created a subsidy program to help women with work-related commuting and childcare expenses.
At the same time, global consultancy firm KPMG’s Female Leaders Outlook 2020 was published for the first time in the Kingdom. The survey, conducted in 2020, includes 675 female leaders from 52 countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Kholoud Mousa, partner and head of inclusion and diversity at KPMG in the Kingdom, said: “COVID-19 is an accelerator for digitalization and has ignited change in many areas, so it could be seen as a catalyst for gender diversity, especially in the mid to long term,” she added.
Forty-seven percent of Saudi female leaders in the survey said they do not expect the pandemic to slow progress on diversity and inclusion, and 23 percent of Saudi female leaders said introducing workplace quotas for women was a positive move — more than double the global average.
Looking to the future, 66 percent of female leaders in Saudi Arabia said they were confident about their company’s growth prospects over the next three years.


Eastern Province Cement shrugs off pandemic with bumper dividend payout

Eastern Province Cement shrugs off pandemic with bumper dividend payout
Updated 07 March 2021

Eastern Province Cement shrugs off pandemic with bumper dividend payout

Eastern Province Cement shrugs off pandemic with bumper dividend payout
  • Cement sector benefits from mega projects
  • Shares rise as company agrees dividend

DUBAI: Eastern Province Cement shareholders are set to receive an SR215 million ($57.2 million) dividend payout after full-year profits jumped by a fifth last year.
Sales edged 1.8 percent higher in 2020 to SR742 million compared to a year earlier, the Dammam-based company said in a Tadawul stock exchange filing on Sunday. Net profit rose 19.9 percent to SR217 million.
It said that higher sales and lower expenses helped to drive earnings higher.
Cement producers across the Kingdom are benefiting from rising demand from the construction sector where a number of mega-projects linked to the emerging tourism sector have started to take shape.
The shares rose 1.24 percent on Sunday.