Honeywell (NYSE:HON) hosted its first-ever Women in Leadership Forum in the Middle East earlier this week as part of its ongoing efforts to bring more women into senior management roles and increase female participation in its regional workforce.
The event, which was held in partnership with New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), was attended by Honeywell employees and students at the NYUAD Saadiyat Island campus.
Driving home the message that a diverse workforce featuring women in leadership leads to better outcomes for companies, the forum featured a lively moderated discussion featuring Kate Adams, the Fortune 100 firm’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel.
Speaking to the group in Abu Dhabi, Adams stressed that diversity in the workplace is not a luxury, but a business imperative. “Honeywell is committed to promoting a representative workforce comprising all ethnicities and genders. We do this because it represents a winning proposition for employees, shareholders and customers alike,” said Adams.
“Studies in markets globally have repeatedly demonstrated a positive relationship between increased diversity and better business outcomes within corporations, and the results are no different here in the Gulf Cooperation Council,” Adams added. “Diversity ensures we meet the evolving needs of the communities in which we operate, while also attracting and retaining the best talent globally.”
Norm Gilsdorf, President, Honeywell Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, said in his comments to the group that Honeywell draws inspiration from the UAE’s commitment to the empowerment of women, and is actively appointing qualified women to leadership positions in the region.
The UAE became the first country in the Arab world, and only the second country internationally, to introduce a mandatory female presence in the boardroom in 2012 on the basis that introducing capable women into leadership roles in male-dominated areas would make companies more competitive and encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship.
“We are committed to ensuring that Honeywell’s mind-set on diversity at an international level is applied regionally and I have made it a personal mission to ensure that women are part of the senior decision-making hierarchy in our Middle East business,” Gilsdorf said.
According to a 2014 study by McKinsey & Co., GCC companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher on all nine dimensions of organizational effectiveness. This means improved direction, leadership, culture and climate, accountability, coordination and control, capability, motivation, external orientation, and innovation and learning.
In the study, McKinsey & Co. also found that women in the GCC bring a new and often wider perspective to management problem solving, and noted that women have a knack for bringing new angles to supplement the status quo on existing solutions.
Honeywell, with 127,000 employees operating in over 70 countries around the world, is a keen advocate of women in leadership posts. In 2012, the company launched a Women’s Council to drive projects that focus on the development and retention of female leaders. The programme has been a catalyst for ideas and initiatives to keep top female talent at Honeywell through increased networking opportunities and other activities.
Honeywell’s Board of Directors is committed to diversity; three directors are women, three are Hispanic, and two are African-American. The company has been recognized for the gender diversity of its Board.