Diversity is ‘driver to innovation’

Ursula Burns, chairman and chief executive of Xerox, said it was crucial for society to remove obstacles in the workforce that impede women.

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ABU DHABI // A company’s success lies in its diversity, the chief of Xerox told an audience at the Crown Pince’s Court ahead of Emirati Women’s Day.

It is crucial for society to remove obstacles in the workforce that impede women, said Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox.

“Diversity is a driver of innovation. Gender, race and background give an eye to the world. Organisations succeed by being proactive and target all segments,” she said.

“How do you create a diverse workforce? You create an opportunity for workers and give them determination to dive into hard work. You enable the workforce to fully participate, and have core values, which is on the top of the list to make a great company.”

Science, technology, engineering and maths - STEM courses - are also crucial for children, helping lay the foundations of education and empowerment for them, Ms Burns said.

These subjects must be given more prominence, the audience heard.

“In a community, you ask who is the best football player, best actor or actress, and people know. It is good to know, but these people don’t know how to solve the problems of the world.

“But they don’t know engineers or who was the Noble Prize winner for Physics. Engineers solve problems and we don’t celebrate them. They are the reason we communicate as easily and travel on planes safely. That is all science and technology,” she said.

All children, especially females, should also be encouraged to take interest in such courses from an early age.

“Our education systems need to be more pointed to STEM. We must not be afraid to tell our children they are not doing well [in STEM courses] and must push them to compete globally,” she said.

When it comes to work, women should also turn to their family for support, Ms Burns said.

“You need help to acquire the balance, from your husband or sister, anyone,” she said.

Work structure must also change to help allow women to continue in their careers, she added.

One of the most important lessons for women to take on board, Ms Burns said, was to keep away from the mentality of acting like a man.

“Lastly, be authentic. And this is very important for women. We are trying hard to emulate men exactly, even in their career path, and that just doesn’t value the differences with what we as women can contribute.”

Ms Burns praised the country’s government on its efforts in empowering women in the workforce, noting the creation of the Gender Balance Council, which aims to provide equal opportunities.

She congratulated Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, on her role in encouraging and supporting women to thrive.

“I hope it will not be remarkable to see a woman in a leading position,” she said, closing out the lecture.

The lecture was attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed, Chairman of the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and other dignitaries.