New report outlines how to improve gender diversity in the GCC

Author: PM editorial | Date: 8 Mar 2017

”The private sector clearly plays a pivotal role in change,” says executive director of the Pearl Initiative

A new report claims that gender diversity is still a key issue for GCC employers and includes four case studies of organisations providing more opportunities for women.
 
Women’s Careers in the GCC was published ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March and was commissioned by the Pearl Initiative, a UAE-based business-led non-profit organisation, and Sharjah Business Women Council.
 
“In recent years, women in the Gulf region have been breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’ at a growing pace, increasingly taking on top government and private sector jobs,” said Carla Koffel, executive director of Pearl Initiative.
 
“However, even though the universities are graduating a large number of highly qualified women, female participation at the decision-making level remains low. The private sector clearly plays a pivotal role in change."
 
“The ground-breaking organisations leading this change have the very best access to talent. They are optimising financial performance and achieving stronger governance.”
 
One of the case studies focused on General Electric (GE), a multinational that employs more than 9,000 people in the MENA region.
 
In 2009, women comprised just three per cent of MENA staff. GE leadership understood the need to change if they wanted to increase the female workforce.
 
GE hired many young female graduates but found they often left before reaching middle management level, usually between the age of 21 and 30.
 
The organisation realised it had to put effective practices and policies into place, so it could successfully hire, retain and develop women into more senior roles.
 
It implemented a number of changes, which included creating a Regional Women’s Network as well as mentoring and coaching programmes for women. It also invested in targeted training programmes and incentives for hiring and promoting more women.
 
Five recommendations were made, based on the outcomes of the four case studies:
 
  1. Create a balanced corporate culture
  2. Invest in building career paths
  3. Improve work-life balance
  4. Adopt HR policies that ensure equality – supportive policies, such as harassment prevention and making facilities more female-friendly
  5. Be an advocate to the wider community
Gender balance in the workplace is high on the agenda in the UAE; the government recently launched its Gender Balance Guide: Good Practices for the UAE Organisations. The guide was developed with OECD to provide practical instructions for employers to help the country achieve its equality targets.