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Companies do better with women at the helm, says survey

A new survey found 61% of UAE workers and 54% of Saudi citizens believe that having more women in senior positions will benefit the economy.

Companies do better with women at the helm, says survey
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

The Middle East is currently leading the way in diversity, equality, and inclusion activities. Policies supporting inclusivity and diversity have been implemented over the past ten years to enhance women’s participation in the workforce. 

For instance, the potential to advance to top leadership positions is important to eight out of ten working-age women in the UAE, and 73% feel they have those opportunities at work. 

According to the survey by consulting company Kearney, 61% of UAE workers believe having more women in leadership positions will benefit their company, and 39% believe that a woman will eventually become their company’s top executive. 

Women comprise 66% of public sector employees in the UAE, which leads the region in gender equality, and women hold 30% of leadership positions. 

However, the survey noted that despite progress made at the national level toward a more egalitarian workplace, leaders in the private sector still need to do more to open doors for female talent.

According to 81% of the women polled, they need more support to acquire the backing they need to step into leadership positions. When asked about the difficulties they experience at work, 25% of women said their ambitions are too lofty, 21% believed their present workplace’s organizational culture discourages them from taking the initiative, and 18% said their coworkers are discriminatory.

“To support ambitious women aiming to climb the career ladder, business leaders in the private sector have a major responsibility to provide women with the relevant support and training to progress in their careers and open up opportunities for them to take a seat at the leadership table,” said Isabel Neiva, Partner at Kearney Middle East & Africa.

Similarly, about 54% of Saudi citizens believe that having more women in senior positions will benefit the economy. 

The kingdom has adopted and implemented several inclusiveness and diversity-supporting laws and programs during the last five years to ease women’s entry into the workforce. The increase in female labor participation from 17% in 2016 to 37% in 2022 illustrates the substantial advancements made in this sector. 

According to the survey, 76% of women said that having the chance to advance to top leadership roles was important to them. While 81% said it is challenging to acquire the support they need to take on such jobs, 71% of the women feel they have the opportunity to lead at work.

“The unparalleled spike in female participation in the workforce is driven by legislation and many national initiatives. The research revealed business leaders harbor unconscious biases that affect the hiring, promotion, and retention of women. Organizations have a responsibility to rid their HR systems of such biases, enabling a competent and diverse set of leaders at the table in the future,” said Wiam Hasanain, Director at Kearney Middle East & Africa. 

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