The Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount-Lebanon (CCIA-BML), a non-profit private organization working for the public benefit, is a partner in the EU funded project INTERNISA. The project aims at providing digital skills trainings to women as well as know-how about digitalization approaches to SMEs and to public sector. The objective is to reduce the gender gap in digital skills and also to facilitate the employment of digitally skilled women. INTERNISA is co-financed 90% by the European Union through the ENI CBC-MED program.
INTERNISA Project falls under the thematic priority A.3 Promotion of social inclusion and the fight against poverty. INTERNISA seeks to combine training in the digital sector with professional development in the agro-food, textile, tourism and financial sectors. To reach its objective, the project will develop online and offline services addressed to women and employers providing training curricula and programs. The project activities will culminate with interventions related to match-making of labor demand and supply through and online platform and job fairs to foster contacts among job seekers and employers.
INTERNISA is implemented in seven Med countries and involves the Region of Central Macedonia (Lead partner), ActionAid Hellas (Greece), Al Balqa Applied University (Jordan), Catalan Youth Agency of the Regional Government of Catalonia and Andalusia Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (Spain), SQLI Services (Tunisia), Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, Arrezzo Innovatione (Italy), and ActionAid Palestine.
Within the INTERNISA context, an online survey was conducted in all partner countries- Lebanon included- to identify the skills needs and collect information about the requested digital skills needed in the Lebanese enterprises market, mainly in four selected sectors: Agro food, textiles, finance and tourism. This survey is divided into 4 sections that cover the companies information; women integration practices; soft and digital skills needed to engage women in the market and finally the best women friendly practices through Code of Conduct.
The survey targeted companies’ directors, administrators and human resource managers. 121 different companies and organizations were questioned and revealed their insights regarding women integration in labour market from SMEs perspective.
a- Profile of respondents
The highest number of respondent companies belong mainly to the agro-food and finance sectors. As for the gender repartition, males showed a higher participation rate (55%) than women (45%) in such decision making positions. Also, 58% of the respondents are likely to be young since they are mostly less than 40 years old. Regarding the educational background of respondents, results reveal a diversity on academic levels yet the majority of participants, more than 30%, completed their undergraduate studies (university education). The results revealed as well that 52% of the participants are managers of companies and most of these companies are small and belong to the private sector. Generally, results clearly showed that the participants sample represent a group of young people that are decision makers and support women entry to the market.
b- Women integration practices
The survey mapped the women integration practices by identifying the actions carried out by companies to protect women against abuse and violence. The survey identified as well the initiatives taken by companies to support women capacity building through training programs. Results showed that 70% of the companies constantly update their technological systems. Therefore, some of these companies develop internal training programs to upscale the digital skills of female employees particularly on ICT. Moreover, results revealed that half of companies are aligned with the gender digital parity to avoid any form of gender digital discrepancy. Also, 78% of these companies contribute to the training programs in order to benefit, encourage and increase the women integration into the labour market.
c- Soft and digital skills needs
This section tackled the soft and digital skills needs of women in the workplace. Indeed, these needs must enable women to create and share digital content, to communicate more easily and to solve problems of creative and effective fulfilment in their workplace, in life and in their social activities. Thus, the questionnaire revealed that all companies are aware of the importance of the need for these skills to strengthen the engagement of women in the Lebanese economical system.
d- Code of Conduct
Section four of the survey investigated the applicability of friendly gender policies in companies through the code of conduct. Results showed that 71% of participant companies put in place a code of conduct and ethics on which the gender equality occupies an important place. Regarding the hiring policy, 71% of the companies revealed that their recruitment policies encourage non-discriminating job advertisements, while 28% of companies do not refer to jobs Ads. Regarding the HR policies, 60% of companies do not set HR policies that include specific gender-based discrimination clauses. Moreover, 81% of respondent companies apply wages and benefit policies to equally pay male and female employees when they own the same academic qualifications and experience for the same job position. Regarding the policy support for equal opportunities for female and male in terms of access to training-professional development-career promotion, 67% of the companies support gender parity on this level. However, 50% of the participant companies do not offer flexible arrangements or on-site facilities to pregnant women. Nevertheless, 61% of respondents put in place internal policies that include clauses against harassment and women abuse in workplace.
Based on the over examination of the information collected on SMEs survey, it comes out that the largest number of companies embrace non-discriminating work policies. Some companies developed written policies and code of conduct, particularly the large companies while the small companies encourage non-discriminatory policies through its onsite operations and policies even if not stated within the company official documents. The INTERNISA project launched as well women skills needs survey that we will disseminate its key findings in the upcoming issue of Econews.