Women in the GCC are leading organisations worth US$385bn

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 07 Sep 2016

Greater female enrolment in higher education is helping close the gender gap, says report

Women are closing the gender gap in the business world and are in charge of organisations worth a combined total of $385bn.

A new report by alternative asset management firm, Al Masah Capital, called GCC Women—Entrepreneurs in New Economy, says an increase in literacy rates and educational opportunities, as well as changing cultural attitudes, is helping women set up and maintain successful businesses at an unprecedented rate.

"The socioeconomic condition of GCC women has improved over the past few decades. These women are proving to be a driving force for the GCC economic engine. A major factor spurring this change is the popularity of higher education among women in the region. The female enrolment rate is higher than that of males across all levels in the Arab region," said Al Masah.

Jennifer Campori, managing director of Charterhouse Middle East, believes that gender diversification is becoming much more important in today’s workforce – and especially so in the GCC. “There are several reasons for the growth of women in senior roles,” she said. “One major factor is support and encouragement not only by their peers but also by the government and government leaders – particularly in the UAE, where women have created a strong presence for themselves.

"Men and women may have similar skillsets on their CVs, however I personally feel that women are progressing as leaders in the workforce because of their excellent soft skills. Women understand what motivates people, they listen to their team and make plans for the challenges ahead while also being able to juggle multiple tasks to not only be a good leader in the office but also at home. Women look for solutions to problems and create new ideas: we have to be resilient, capable and ready to take action. As Margaret Thatcher said: 'If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.'"

Government policies and initiatives have helped women to succeed, the report added. For example, the Qatari government established the Qatari Business Women Forum (QBWA) in 2000 to encourage female leaders within the private sector.

"In line with the vision that the government has set, QBWA has played a distinguished role in enhancing women's contribution to the strategic growth that Qatar is witnessing today," said a statement from the group.

QBWA has launched a number of initiatives that support and promote Qatari women, such as the Qatar Businesswomen Award, Corporate Ambassador’s Programme and Qatar International Businesswomen Forum.

A study published in 2015 by AT Kearney and the B20 Employment Taskforce, called Power Women in Arabia: Shaping the path for regional gender equality, found that due to rising levels of motivation to pursue a career and a rise in skills and capabilities, female participation in the workforce generally had increased by 33 per cent since 1993, and the trend is consistent across the GCC, with an increase in all countries, ranging from 15 per cent in Kuwait to 63 per cent in the UAE. But the study concluded that in terms of women in leadership positions, the region still faces a large gap compared to other parts of the world.