Dubai: A Vision for Diversity & Workplace Inclusion

Historic’, ‘milestone event’ and ‘groundbreaking for the region’ were some of the terms used to describe the “DUBAI: A Vision for Diversity and Workplace Inclusion” conference which took place on Thursday, March 31st. This well-attended event was organised by Workplace Pride Foundation and hosted by Baker McKenzie. Participants were primarily businesses, both Workplace Pride members active in the region and Baker McKenzie’s clients as well as contacts from The Netherlands embassy in the UAE. The Embassy also hosted an opening reception for the event on March 30th in their extraordinary Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion. 

Dubai, the setting for the conference and one of 7 Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is in the very unique position of being at the crossroads of the modern world, both geographically and economically. In fact, many Workplace Pride members have offices or activities in the UAE that cover the entire Middle East and often Africa as well. In addition to this, Dubai was chosen as the venue for the conference to leverage Expo 2020 which brought representatives from around the world to the emirate and offered a rare opportunity to highlight Dubai’s role as an agent of change. This role as a change-maker also rings true when it comes to introducing more diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the Middle East and in the global hub that Dubai has become.

The conference addressed Diversity and Inclusion barriers as well as the opportunities facing businesses in Dubai and the wider region in regards to their workforces, their clients/customers and their suppliers in the region. It covered all aspects of D&I and zoomed in on how these tie into corporations’ global goals and policies. It also explored how international investors look increasingly at the breadth of a businesses’ engagement when it comes to equitable workplaces and the impact this has on decision-making. 

Highlights of the event included: 

  • Opening Reception hosted by Douwe Buzeman, Deputy Ambassador of The Netherlands Embassy on March 30th in their extraordinary Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion
  • Opening Conference address by Hani Naja, Partner at Baker McKenzie, Dubai
  • A context setting video featuring Walid Hadi, SVP & Country Chair for Oman, Shell
  • Panels on: 
    • Diversity, Inclusion and Equality: no longer a luxury for global businesses” moderated by David Pollard, Exec. Director, Workplace Pride with panelist: 
    • Tamer Zikry: Global Head of Talent, Diversity & Inclusion, Intertrust Group
    • Nassib Abou-Khalil: Chief Legal Officer, Nokia 
    • TJ Lightwala: Managing Director, Experience Services Lead, MENA, Accenture
  • “Diplomacy as a Tool for Progress” moderated by Michiel Kolman, Co-Chair Workplace Pride with panelist:
  • Anne-Roos Wasser: Senior Policy AdvisorNetherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Alison Hall: Deputy Consul General, UK Consulate Dubai
  • “Future stakeholders for the new way of working” moderated by Bianca Nijhof, Co-Chair Workplace Pride with panelist:
  • Abeer Jarrar: Representative BakerWomen, Corporate Partner Baker McKenzie Dubai
  • Reema Haddad: Head of HR D&I Leader Middle East & Africa at IBM

    Additional presentations were made by: 
  • Mirjam de Blecourt: Principal at Baker McKenzie, Amsterdam & Member Netherland’s Senate
  • George Perlov: Acting Exec. Director, Open for Business

In the closing address, Kitty van der Heijden: Director-General International Cooperation, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs eloquently brought all of the themes of the day together in a way that demonstrated the great opportunity that D&I presents to both Dubai and all corporates that operate there. 

This important milestone event will also leave a legacy in the form of a new network of D&I professionals and supporters in Dubai that will meet on a regular basis, starting with a first gathering hosted by Accenture. (For more information on this effort, contact david@workplacepride.org

Workplace Pride would like to thank Baker McKenzie, The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all of our supporting member organisations that helped to make this event possible. 

For more information about Workplace Pride, write to info@workplacepride.org