Experts discuss leadership role for GCC women
Manama, March 7, 2012
There is too much talk and not enough action being taken to see women promoted to senior positions in the UAE and GCC, according to a 'Women in Finance GCC' roundtable held in Dubai.
HRinspireME and Insight Discovery hosted the event to look at the issues facing women in the Gulf across the financial services sector. It included high-profile panellists from some of the leading companies and associations in the region.
The aim of the roundtable was to initiate dialogue and start shifting the focus from what can 'break' a woman's career to what can 'make' her career.
"The position of women, in society at large and in business and government, has improved enormously in the GCC region over recent years," said HRinspireME managing director Linda Jarnhamn.
'In contrast to fashion and media industries, for example, there has been little discussion of the reasons for the low participation of women in financial services in the region. That's why we have collaborated with Insight Discovery to convene this leadership roundtable, to initiate a debate amongst senior executives within the industry," she observed.
'At present, there is little awareness, in the UAE or elsewhere in the region, of financial services as an industry amongst women,' she noted.
'However, major financial services companies and other interested parties can do much more to boost the industry's image among potential employees,' Linda added.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) Middle East regional director Amanda Line said young women are simply unaware of accounting as a profession.
'This is one of the reasons why CA is not an aspirational career for young women in the Gulf. We are now therefore working on increasing awareness - through networks, mentoring schemes and publicising the success of female accountants who can be valuable role models to young women,' she stated.
Standard Chartered Bank Middle East priority and international banking general manager Deanna Othman said expectations from, and influence by, families are very important in influencing women's choices.
'We are therefore focusing on enhancing the profile of successful local women as well as providing targeted financial services education and development to women within our bank.'
Many leading international banks have in place structured programmes that seek to promote and assist Middle Eastern women in their career paths.
However, there remains a need for better development of female employees - especially in relation to technical and boardroom skills.
Programmes that encourage mentoring, networking and sponsorship are all helpful - and can be developed further.
Latham & Watkins counsel Dipti Thakar said women's participation at board and executive team level in financial services companies in the GCC is low.
'It is widely recognised that increased female representation on boards leads to greater financial success. None of the GCC countries made the top 100 list of the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2011, a report which directly correlates smaller gender gaps with increased economic competitiveness,' she added.-TradeArabia News Service