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Women in leadership: local and global trends

Hisham Farouk Hisham Farouk


As we mark International Women’s Day in March it is an opportune time to look at global and local trends in relation to women in leadership. With a number of women taking key leadership roles and making history such as Helle Thorning-Schmidt who became the first female prime minister in Denmark; Ginni Rometty who became the first female CEO of IBM; Indra Nooyi who is the CEO of Pepsico and Marissa Mayer who is the CEO of Yahoo to name a few, numerous organisations and governmental initiatives are aiming to ‘bridge the gap’ to further endorse women in leadership.

Women in leadership has been a long standing matter with greater leaps being made to promote females globally. Many believe this could be due to the changing business dynamics and greater access to education globally which further supports and encourages females to ‘break’ the so called glass ceiling. 

Succession planning and the introduction of young dynamic leaders within a family owned business need to consider female family members as potential primary decision makers and or stakeholders, ensuring positive influence of women extends into management and strategic decision making which can further shape the direction of the business.

When looking at the key attributes associated to leadership, it becomes evident that the participation of females on the board provides a refreshing perspective on issues and ideas. We can’t forget that for most businesses, 50% of their target market is females. 

A report by Grant Thornton titled “Women in Business: from the classroom to the boardroom” (taken from the International Business Report research) identifies that there has been very little change in relation to women in leadership and that the proportion of women holding senior roles in business around the world remains at 24% - identical to the results in 2013, 2009 and 2007. 

However, quotas which have been announced within the UAE will further move the gender inequality into a dynamic place over the coming years.  We are already beginning to see the shift in balance with a number of qualified entrepreneurial women adding to business start-ups and key industries across the region. The top 100 most powerful Arab woman published by Arabian Business highlighted the significant leaps being made in relation to females within leadership roles such as Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi who is the Minister of Foreign Trade; Raja Easa Al Gurg who is the Managing Director of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group; Dr Amina Al Rustamani who is the President of Tecom Business Parks and Fatima Al Jaber who is COO of Al Jaber Group to name a few. Furthermore, businesses across the UAE need to embrace the change and empower its women to reach the boardroom so that dynamic females can continue to not only bridge the gender gap but can also significantly make a difference by adding insight to support business growth. 

Grant Thornton UAE encourages and supports its own female employees to be a part of the Women’s International Leadership Link network which is developed and managed by Grant Thornton International to support, encourage and promote females within the workplace. At Grant Thornton UAE, we also introduced the first female Director to the leadership team which further endorses are commitment to promoting a culture of inclusion and empowerment and recognises how a dynamic and diverse board can further support a dynamic business to grow.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, “Women have proved themselves in many workplaces and we want them to have a strong presence in decision making positions”. The inevitable change in dynamics will lead to the makeup of the boardroom in 10 years’ time being much more balanced, inclusive and diverse than ever before. 


The top 100 most powerful Arab women, accessed on 23/03/14 via 
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