Leaders from the American Jewish Committee, Accenture, and NYU Abu Dhabi unpacked the ways in which communities, societies, and organizations can instill and benefit from cultures of inclusion and diversity at a U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council luncheon at the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. This luncheon discussion, which was moderated by Kelsey Warner, Future Editor at The National, coincided with Expo 2020 Dubai’s “Tolerance and Inclusivity” business theme week. A video recording can be found here and by clicking the below button.
Bob Clark, Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion and Chairman and Founder of Clayco Corporation, a leading architectural, design, engineering, and construction firm, kicked off the luncheon with a story about his own experiences regarding inequality surrounding race in St. Louis, as demonstrated by the events of Ferguson. He also shared a story about his own family coming together from a wide range of backgrounds. Bob and his adopted son Todd have prioritized openness and inclusion of individuals from diverse backgrounds as Clayco’s business has grown.
Fatiah Touray, Senior Director of Inclusion and Equity at NYU Abu Dhabi, opened the conversation by outlining the important ways in which NYU Abu Dhabi is building a culture of belonging. With students from 145 nationalities and faculty from 45 nationalities on campus, Fatiah explained that developing a common language of understanding focused on shared humanity is essential. NYU Abu Dhabi “focuses on commonalities, explores differences” and makes sure that the different experiences of students, faculty, and staff are taken into account in cultivating community.
Ambassador Marc Sievers, Head of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) office in Abu Dhabi, underscored the significance of AJC’s presence in Abu Dhabi – the first AJC office an Arab or Muslim country. This milestone “reflects decades of work” and “an openness” on the part of the U.A.E. The Abraham Accords, he noted, has only provided further opportunity to deepen ties and advance dialogue between Jewish networks and the Arab world with the caveat that “there is a lot of work to be done still.” He identified “human engagement” as the “key to mutual understanding” and overcoming stereotypes and misconceptions.
Nadya Kamali, Country Manager Director for the U.A.E. at Accenture, spoke to the ways in which empowering diverse groups supports talent development at Accenture and beyond. Referencing Accenture’s MoU with “e7 Daughters of the Emirates” to boost female empowerment, Ms. Kamali explained that such partnerships are “immense in order to unleash the opportunity to innovate and grow.” Circling back later in the discussion, she noted, “we are committed to a path of diversity and equality,” within Accenture, with clients, and within communities.
Building on the significant role of diversity, inclusion, equity, and access within companies, Fatiah Touray explained that younger generations are examining the missions and values of companies and organizations more than ever before. Workers are looking at the ways companies “are moving things forward, thinking about diversity and inclusion,” and interacting with all markers of identity.
Nadya Kamali then spoke to the unique challenges of women in the workforce in the pandemic era. In an Accenture survey of 7,000 people across six countries, women reported significantly higher pay cuts than men and a higher rates of losing healthcare than men. Also significant, 50% of women reported more tension in the house as a result of COVID – a finding that was not replicated among men. Altogether, this presents a setback in equality for women in the workforce but can be overcome by making use of technologies that support access.
Discussion also focused on diversity and inclusion in society more broadly, with Ambassador Sievers sharing more about the impact of religious diversity in the U.A.E. He explained that in Dubai and now Abu Dhabi, the government of the U.A.E. has allowed and encouraged the Jewish community to emerge and “establish itself as part of the diverse mix of religious communities in the U.A.E.” Ambassador Sievers emphasized that this reflects a “brave decision” that “this kind of diversity of communities and religious identities is in the best interest of the country.”
The discussion concluded with actionable recommendations for businesses and communities. Nadya Kamali explained that we must set targets for diversity and inclusion, using the technology available to expand access, make leaps and bounds, and bring new thoughts and ideas to the table. Ambassador Sievers reiterated the significance of openness and acceptance of diverse religious groups. Fatiah Touray underscored that we can empower participation of diverse groups by getting back to caring about people, finding out the ways in which diverse groups feel supported, and validating their needs and ability to contribute.
Expo 2020 Dubai encapsulates the spirit of empowering diverse voices and bringing people of all backgrounds together. At Expo 2020 Dubai, the first Expo to be held in the Middle East, 192 nations are represented with pavilions and visitors from all over the world have traveled to engage in important conversations, experience new cultures, and learn from one another.
The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council will continue its Expo business roundtable luncheon discussion on Tuesday, December 14th with a conversation on Knowledge and Connectivity. To learn more about the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s Expo 2020 Dubai programming, please contact Graham Reitman at email@example.com.