Dubai: Women are not just participating more in the labour force, they are winning over higher representation in the top ranks at corporate organisations, thanks to better access to higher education among female professionals and changing social norms.
About 14 years ago, there used to be only three women serving as CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. By 2009, the number grew to 15, and successful leaders like Ursula Burns, who became the first female African-American CEO in the US, became a source of inspiration for millions of women around the world.
Over the past five years, the total share of women becoming CEOs increased to 3.6 per cent, from 2.1 per cent in the prior five-year period. Over the next several years, the number is only going to grow further and by 2040, it is projected that women will make up about a third of new CEO appointments, according to Strategy&.
The rise of women in leadership posts is not just evident in mature markets like the US, but also in the Arab region, where there is a growing pool of female professionals who are not afraid to break barriers. “We see a similar trend also in the Middle East with an increasing amount of women as CEOs or in other senior leadership positions, not least in family-owned businesses that constitute an important part of these economies,” said Per-Ola Karlsson, Strategy& senior partner and managing director of the Dubai office.
Emirati national Rahma Himid, who joined the ranks of women CEOs when she started Grace and Garbo Communications in Dubai in 2011, said there is an “undeniable growth” in the number of women landing leadership roles in the UAE and the rest of the region. “Over the years, we have witnessed a wave of women’s professional dynamics stemming from shy boardroom attitude to a power force in previously male dominated roles,” she said. “Juggling careers and personal responsibilities have become second nature for many women — one does not compromise the other.”
She attributed the trend to women’s “determination” to enter different industries and career options. “Women are becoming aware of their own attributes in modern environments and how these attributes fit in this new age. They are taking up the challenge and not deterred by unconstructive criticism. They have become more ambitious and self-driven, which is why we are also witnessing a growth in [the number of] self-starters,” she added.
Ken Favaro, senior partner at Strategy&, said they expect women to advance further over the next quarter of a century. “As much as a third of incoming class of CEOs will be women by 2040, based on a 10-year trend in our data, ever higher education of women, continuing entry of women into the business workforce and changing social norms around the world.”
The study by Strategy&, which covers data on women CEOs over the past 10 years, found that while women holding top positions is becoming more prevalent, the number in favour of females is still small, just 3 per cent of the chief executives in big companies.
“The numbers are [still] changing, previously there was zero, so 3 per cent is a start,” said Himid. “The challenges will continue and this could simply be due to lack of opportunities paved for women or misconception, mistrust and lack of confidence by their peers. So the challenge really is to convince them otherwise by bridging the gap through professional and performance conviction.”
Kenya-born British national Frennie Seier, who runs her own business in Dubai, Seier Shades Salon, said emerging societies like the UAE now offer favourable conditions for women to advance either in their professional or business careers. “I would personally attribute it to the favourable lifestyle of UAE, where a woman can afford to focus and balance her career and family,” she said.
“[For one], domestic help is affordable. It is also convenient to travel to the UAE, so I can have my parents visit and assist me when necessary without much hassle, with the daily flights from all over the world,” Seier, who is also a mother of three young children, said.
“[There are also] very good schools here and increased opportunities and availability of higher education. The accessibility of tools to better your self is just a click or drive away. When one has all [these] covered, there is truly nothing to hold you back from achieving what you desire, business wise,” she added.
In corporate offices where gender stereotypes still exist, it may be difficult for women to move up in the ranks or secure the most coveted positions.
However, those that find the time to invest in their “career capital” may have more chances of realising their ambitions.
A research by management consulting company Accenture in February showed that 89 per cent of working women around the world believe that building their career capital — those differentiated skills that define and advance their careers — is key to success in the workplace.
The research was based on a survey of 4,100 male and female professionals in 32 countries. The majority of both women and men (84 per cent) said they are working to increase their career capital to enjoy greater opportunities for growth, have the ability to influence decisions at work, increase their credibility among colleagues and peers, and reach their goals.
More than half (67 per cent) agree that having the knowledge or competency in a particular area is a major contributor to career capital.
Source: Cleofe Maceda, Senior Reporter, gulfnews.com