HSBC  recently launched its first ‘Women's Networking Forum’ for its female employees across the Middle East. The bank said that the forum is designed to support HSBC's gender  diversity strategy to increase the representation of women at a senior management level within the organisation, although it failed to explain how a woman-only forum would achieve a broader representation across the organisation. Abdulfattah Sharaf, CEO of HSBC UAE said, "HSBC is making a real commitment to diversity, in the recognition that it is essential to our business. When I look at the young people who join our Emirati graduate management trainee programme, the calibre of women coming through is truly impressive. With the extra support of our diversity programme, I am absolutely confident we will continue to see an increasing number of female employees working their way to senior management positions in the near future." Nationalisation of jobs remains one key aspect of HSBC's diversity strategy in the MENA region, the statement said. Emiratis and female employees in the UAE seem to fare the best. In the UAE, HSBC continuously reviews new ways to identify and select outstanding Emirati talent whilst drawing on its global network to develop existing Emirati employees. Currently, more than 66 per cent of Emirati employees in HSBC are women. Overall in the UAE, women represent 43 per cent of HSBC's total work force. Francesca McDonagh, Regional Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management and Executive Sponsor of the HSBC Middle East Women's Network Forum, said, "After 15 years at the bank in a number of different roles across different regions, I know from my own experience that HSBC offers tremendous employment opportunities for talented and determined women. We offer the experiences and development opportunities of an international bank, together with a stated commitment to identify, support and develop the next generation of female leaders". Across MENA, 1 in 5 of HSBC's senior managers is a woman. The banks says that its goal is to improve that to 1 in 4 by the end of 2014.
"I know from my experience in the Middle East that there are many talented women who perhaps have not considered a role in banking. We aim to dispel any illusion that banking is a career best suited for men. At HSBC we are putting a lot of hard work behind creating a working environment which really motivates and supports women to succeed," McDonagh added.