Diversity is Personal for the CEO of GE Middle East, North Africa and Turkey
By Nabil Habayeb, President and CEO of GE Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT)
For me, building diversity in the GE MENAT organization is deeply personal because it begins at home.
You see, I have three daughters, and when I think about their futures, I want them to have the same opportunities to succeed as my son. I want them to be able to work in an environment that respects them, that gives them opportunities to grow and to prove themselves based on their capabilities.
And I think to myself, if that’s what I expect of the places where my daughters are going to work, then I certainly need to be sure that this is what’s happening in the organization that I lead.
In the 16 years since I took on this role, we have worked hard to embed diversity in the way we do business. The commitment to diversity is not only about equal opportunity, it’s also about building a better company; it’s about generating goodwill with regional governments; it’s about delivering better outcomes for customers; and it’s about being able to attract the region’s best talent.
I really believe that having a diverse team is great on all fronts, by helping bring different perspectives to the discussion. It drives creativity and performance.
GE’s embrace of diversity has other benefits as well.
A few years ago, we hosted the chairman of Saudi Aramco and the governor of the Eastern Province at our GEMTEC manufacturing and service facility in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The tour was being led by one of our Saudi women engineers. When the chairman and governor saw this highly accomplished Saudi woman with such expertise, it made a huge difference in how they saw us, particularly at a time when the government was, and is, working to create opportunities for Saudi women. This helped them to see GE as a true partner in this effort.
And having women in all types of roles helps us attract talent – not only other women, but men as well. It really becomes a virtuous cycle that helps us attract more and better talent of both genders across the region.
This is not to say, however, that hard work and deliberate policies are not required. In fact, to actively diversify our workforce, we instituted a policy that for every open position, at least one woman must be included on the shortlist. They were not required to hire the woman candidate – the final decision always depends on capabilities and ‘who is the best talent for the job’. But obligating hiring managers and decision makers to find female talent and not allowing them to fall back into their comfort zones regarding gender or nationality really helped drive the thinking and force the recruiting teams to do the more difficult work of building a diverse talent pool.
We do other things, like support the 22-year-old GE Women’s Network, a global organization that supports women’s professional growth. In MENAT, the network has six hubs with more than 1,200 members. Led by women and their male allies, the network offers programs such as mentoring, skills development, and Women-in-Tech and STEM programs.
As well, we’ve done things like launch an extremely successful ‘Return to work’ program that recruits women who have left the workforce to raise children and now are looking to return to work. We’re actively recruiting these women who bring great managerial experience to our organization.
Ultimately, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, my thinking returns to my family and to the question “does GE MENAT represent the kind of work environment I’d wish for my daughters?” While acknowledging that there is more that we can and are doing to increase the number of female employees, it is with great pride that I confidently answer with a heartfelt: “Yes!”