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Sat 18 Apr 2015 01:12 AM

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GCC career women aiming high to narrow gender gap

New survey reveals ambitions of businesswomen with over 50% aiming at senior or board level positions

GCC career women aiming high to narrow gender gap

Career women in the GCC are ambitious and want to lead in their organisations, with over 50 percent of those surveyed aiming at senior or board level position within the next seven years, according to a new report.

The study has been launched by the Pearl Initiative, an independent not-for-profit organisation working across the Gulf to influence and improve corporate accountability and transparency.

The report follows a GCC-wide research programme on women in senior management conducted by the Pearl Initiative in collaboration with United Nations Global Compact and the Sharjah Business Women Council.

It examines the position of women on the corporate ladder across the region, and seeks to determine what can be done to increase equity in the workplace across all levels.

Recent reports suggest about 21,000 women own investments worth AED40 billion ($10.9 billion) in the UAE while 10 percent of private sector firms are run by women.

The Pearl study said that only 12 percent of CEOs around the world are female and women are lost from the career progression pipeline two to three times faster than men, despite global hiring rates being equal between genders.

In spite of the challenges, women in the GCC understand the importance of a good education and have high aspirations when it comes to their career with 62 percent of those surveyed aspiring to a management role in the next seven years while 86 percent think that education has been vital for their career progression.

“Countries in the GCC have made significant strides in recent years by increasing the participation of women in tertiary education and in the workforce. Yet the number of women advancing to senior executive and board levels within organisations in the GCC remains low,” said Imelda Dunlop, executive director, Pearl Initiative.

“Our report released clearly shows that women in the GCC have high aspirations and ambitions. It’s aimed at the CEO’s agenda because it is the CEOs who have the business incentives and the power to drive the policies that can strengthen the pipeline of female talent through to senior levels, and thereby build more competitive and well-governed organisations across the region,” she added.

The report polled more than 600 senior businesswomen across the GCC and made recommendations including an improvement in flexible working and the adoption of HR policies that ensure equity in the workplace, including policies on maternity leave, pay and promotion, and targets for numbers of women at each managerial level.

The report also highlighted several key areas of concern as 80 percent of working women in the GCC said they feel that they are disadvantaged in the workplace simply for being a women.

Only 25 percent of the women polled said they think they are treated equally in the workplace with 75 percent saying they cannot advance as quickly as men.

In February, the UAE announced plans to launch a new council to boost its efforts to close the gender gap and boost the role of women in building the future of the country.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, revealed plans to establish the UAE Gender Balance Council.

The federal entity will be chaired by Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Women Establishment and wife of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.