Women on boards in the GCC: Not a priority to business leaders

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Dubai - MENA Herald: With businesses in the GCC facing pressing challenges, including oil prices, the issue of gender balance at board level is not a priority in the present climate. This and other revelations are among the findings of a study released today entitled View from the top: What business executives really think about women leaders in the GCC. The report is the culmination of an in depth interviews study conducted in collaboration between Deloitte and 30% Club GCC. A diverse sample of c-suite business leaders across the GCC countries, both male and female, nationals and expatriates, from the public and private sectors, participated in the study.

“It was important for us to have been inclusive in the study from which findings were then extracted,” said Rana Ghandour Salhab, partner, member of the board of Deloitte in the Middle East. “We are pleased to see that business leaders believe women participation in leadership positions is critical to the wellbeing of companies and organizations in the region, yet the more in depth findings around quotas, board priorities and cultural challenges beg further dialogue that should lead to action.”

In addition to looking at the topic of women’s representation on boards in the GCC, the report presents findings from participants on issues such as whether implementing a quota system to achieve gender balance would be effective, what kinds of barriers or bias exist to prevent women from achieving executive positions, and whether a cultural shift is taking place in the region that is changing the dynamics of women’s progression to senior roles.

“The report is a useful tool to highlight many of the talking points that are relevant to the mission and work of the 30% Club GCC,” said Raeda Al Sarayreh, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, CH2M MENAI. “The consensus is that there is plenty of female talent out there, but that we need to help this talent rise up to the challenge and grasp the opportunities. At the same time businesses need to be aware of the issues that are preventing women in their rise to the top and be strategic in how they can tackle these issues.”

Although individual examples of best practice among companies in terms of achieving gender balance were generally thought to be lacking in the region, study participants were able to identify more easily specific countries that were setting an example and making progress in terms of women’s advancement. Of these the UAE emerged as the most noted for the commitment of its leadership to women’s advancement, and its government was perceived by respondents to be working hard on this issue.

Participating leaders in the study were also asked to look to the future to gauge anticipated progress toward greater gender balance at leadership level. With the majority predicting only a small increase in women’s board membership in the coming years, the report ends with questions around which further dialogue can be initiated to ensure targeted and effective action is taken.

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