Accenture commits to female empowerment in the UAE
Reinforcing its commitment to female empowerment, talent development, and gender balance in the Middle East region, Accenture has announced a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UAE-based ‘e7 Daughters of the Emirates’.
This three-year collaboration will contribute to systemic in-country change through expert training and development in SME-led capability, storytelling, design thinking, cost control, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Accenture will dedicate qualified professionals to mentor and help fill the gap between theory classes and real-life work experience to equip female students with future-ready skill sets. These activities also help embed a stronger culture of responsible business practices with all stakeholders within Accenture’s communities.
Accenture already helps to bridge the gender gap via various regional partnerships, thereby "improving access, increasing use, and promoting inclusive development”, and this new partnership will go a long way to developing female talent in the new economy post pandemic, says Shikha Bountra Jetley, who leads Accenture Operations in the Middle East.
According to Adela Acevedo Sarna, chairperson of e7, the pandemic has changed how they operate as a social community and leadership development program with technology providing a “life-line”. This partnership with Accenture allows e7 Daughters of the Emirates to continue “our digital transformation journey” and “enable us to create new experiences as 37 continues to develop the future generation of women leaders in the UAE”.
Unequal impact of pandemic on gender equality
Marking International Women’s Day (IWD), Accenture also highlighted it s recent W20 report produced in collaboration with Accenture Research and Quilt.AI. If Not Now, When? A Roadmap Towards a More Gender-equitable Economic Recovery draws on a survey of 7,000 adults in seven countries conducted in August 2020, and online analytics comparing discussion of gender equality between 2019 and 2020 with a focus on ten different areas including health, education, employment, and digital inclusion. The report sets out ten recommendations that could accelerate progress, female empowerment, and economic development post pandemic if fully committed to by the G20.
The research found that the unequal impact of COVID-19 could set the timeline to gender equality back by up to 151 years (2171) on current trends – but full G20 commitment to Accenture’s 10 W20 recommendations could accelerate progress by up to 41 years.
“Exasperated by the pandemic, women remain underrepresented in formal employment, particularly at more senior levels and in sectors such as technology,” added Jetley. “Women’s earnings have fallen 63% faster than men’s. Our data shows that there has been over 16% average decline in women’s incomes – compared to just over 10% for men. Additionally, women are 79% more likely to be made redundant than men.”
This disparity has been driven by women being more likely to work in sectors vulnerable to being closed down; to take on more unpaid work, such as care work; and to be working without income protection. To balance gender inequities in the workplace, organizations need to focus even more on workplace inclusion in which women can thrive and advance.
Moreover, Accenture research found that COVID-19 has increased the importance of digital inclusion, with more women (54%) relying on the internet to work from home, as opposed to men (35%). The reliance of women on connectivity in health, education, employment, and household management has especially exacerbated the ‘digital divide’ for those with poor or no connectivity. Digital technologies have the power to promote inclusion, efficiency, and innovation but only for those with access to the necessary software, hardware, and support. Organisations must ensure that their access to these resources is gender inclusive.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”