Middle Eastern companies have world’s lowest proportion of senior women

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 20 Jan 2016

The region has an underdeveloped source of female leadership and is lagging behind in gender parity, says KPMG report

Organisations in the Middle East have the lowest proportion of women in senior positions in the world, at just 23 per cent.
This is one of the findings in a recent gender diversity report by KPMG, which surveyed 12 organisations in 180 countries, with over one million employees between them.
The region with the best female representation at senior level is China (52 per cent): the only region where women are the majority. Africa placed second (48 per cent), and USA third (42 per cent).
Melanie Richards, vice chairman of KPMG UK, says: “A diverse talent pipeline is essential to access the breadth of thinking, innovation and leadership agility required for organisations to succeed.”
The report found that while the Middle East had the highest level of inequality, there were significant differences between nations. Overall, the region is described as having an underdeveloped source of female leadership talent as it lags behind in gender parity.
It also found that there are a number of “pioneering women, determined to pursue a career, who demonstrate creativity in working with everyday practical restraints.” Such restraints might include not being able to leave the house without a chaperone in Saudi Arabia.
In male-dominated organisations, it may not just be as simple as hiring or promoting more women. In an industry where men are not used to working with women, they may need help to “feel comfortable with changing the gender mix in their part of the organisation,” says the report. “They often feel fearful of getting ‘gender dynamics’ wrong.
Of course, organisations can only promote gender diversity within the laws of the country they operate in and in accordance with the government’s stance on the matter. KPMG says China’s success in diversity was partly because its “current economic focus encourages men and women to be ambitious.”
Encouragingly, the survey found that none of the CEOs had gender diversity strategies that were being influenced only by the need to comply with government quotas; instead, they were committed to it on a personal level.
When asked what advice they would give to other leaders seeking to change the gender ratio within their organisation, all CEOs recommended the need to “empower women alongside a clear professional imperative for an inclusive culture that encourages all talent.”
The report concludes that, “Gender diversity, though definitely on CEO’s strategic radars, is not a consistently top-rated priority. None claims to have cracked gender diversity.”