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Women in the Boardroom: UAE Leads by Example in GCC

May 2016

May 31, 2016 | 18:00 | Dubai

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, presented by Deloitte and 30% Club GCC.

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.

Some highlights:

  • Women on boards is not seen as a priority for businesses at the current time

Other more pressing issues in the region are seen as presently sidelining the issue of gender diversity at executive level.

  • Mixed views on the importance of board representation of women and how to achieve progress

Although there is support for the idea of women as business leaders, it is felt that there is currently more talk than action.

  • The issue of quotas proves to be controversial

Although quotas received some support, the majority of respondents opposed their implementation.

  • Unanimous acknowledgement that women leaders have a positive impact

There is general consensus on the positive impact of women leaders, both from an economic and business culture perspective.

  • Barriers and bias do exist

Women in the GCC region are challenged by societal norms and business culture in their rise to positions of senior leadership.

  • Progress varies across industries and sectors

The public sector continues to been seen as the most attractive career path for women, although it is beginning to lose some ground to entrepreneurship and the private sector.

  • A new generation of hope is emerging

Generational differences between women are perceived to exist with the younger generation emerging as more likely to challenge the norms of society.

  • The region looks to the UAE as a positive example

Although benchmarks and role models among organizations are seen as lacking across the region, countries are making a difference at a public policy level, and the UAE is recognized for the commitment from leadership that has played a positive role to date.

The UAE emerged as the most noted for the commitment of its leadership to women’s advancement, and for being the leader in the region in terms of women’s education, health and politics and of women’s representation in the workforce. The government was felt to be working hard on these issues. The UAE constitution guarantees equal rights, and women were perceived to be moving to higher levels in all sectors, including politics, the diplomatic service, aviation and law, to name just a few. The UAE was felt to be committed to gender diversity, which has opened the door to women, who are now exposed to different cultures and different ways of doing things.

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