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Gender balance in the UAE remains elusive

Only 5.5% of Private sector leadership positions held by women

Significantly more businesses across the world (75% in 2018 vs 66% in 2017) now have at least one woman on the senior management team, but the proportion of the team that is female has slipped from 25% to 24%, according to Grant Thornton’s Women in Leadership report, published today.

 The report calls on all to #PressforProgress, the research reveals that introducing policies alone is not enough to drive real progress. While the UAE faces similar challenges to the global trend, the government has embraced gender equality putting it at the forefront of its vision for the future, and has played a key role in encouraging and supporting women into leadership positions in the public sector.

Such measures have led to marked increase in the representation of women in the public sector, from a mere 3.4% in the 70s to 66% today, of which 30% are in decision-making roles, and a further 27% in the UAE cabinet. Higher numbers of women than men are graduating university in the UAE with 71% of all graduates being Emirati women, providing an even greater opportunity to build a diverse workforce and leadership team, particularly in the private sector where only 5.5% of leadership positions are occupied by women.

Hisham Farouk, CEO and Global Board Member at Grant Thornton United Arab Emirates states “it is disappointing that in today’s fast-paced and evolving world we are still grappling with gender parity. Change must take place, which requires action at all levels of an organisation, irrespective of industry or country. We must act with responsibility and inclusion in order to influence the right behaviours of the next-generation.”

Grant Thornton’s report analyses the role of both business and government policy in driving change. The data shows gender equality policies are abundant and widespread, with 81% of businesses globally adopting equal pay for men and women performing the same roles, and 71% implementing non-discrimination policies for recruitment. Measures that support working parents are also popular among businesses, including paid parental leave, flexible hours, and part-time working.

However, there is no clear correlation between which, and how many, policies businesses have in place and the gender diversity of their senior management teams. No single policy seems to drive gender diversity, and the regions in which businesses have most policies in place – Africa, the EU, UAE and North America – demonstrate very different levels of gender diversity in business leadership.

Francesca Lagerberg Global Leader for Network Capabilities and Sponsor of Women in Leadership at Grant Thornton International Ltd, adds: “It’s clear that simply introducing policies is not enough to drive real progress on gender diversity. Businesses who are succeeding are those whose policies and practices are rooted in a genuine conviction of the benefit of diversity. Leaders must champion the cause and create inclusive cultures in which a wide range of voices are listened to and where every individual can flourish if we are ever to see real change. Leaders are the only ones who can really press for progress.”

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