• Women in Eastern Europe point the way to senior management whilst in the UAE the path to leadership gains further support from government initiatives

In mark of International Women’s Day, new research from Grant Thornton reveals that Eastern European countries dominate the international league table for senior female business leaders, including seven of the top ten, with Russia at number one.

However the proportion of women reaching the top tier of the business world has shown little progress over the past decade, leading to renewed calls for quotas, one of the recommendations set out in the report released today - Women in business: the path to leadership. 
 
In the UAE, the government has noticed the considerable difference and diversity that women in senior management roles can bring. With Dubai being a cosmopolitan city, serving the world and being known as a MENA hub for the region it is imperative that measures are taken to close the gender gap which isn’t as wide in other competing economies.
 
Therefore in line with this, this year (2015) the UAE Gender Balance council was established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai to ensure women are given leading roles in the development of the country and thus the future, further promoting the path to leadership for females in the UAE. 
 
Grant Thornton’s research reveals that elsewhere, 40% of senior business roles in Russia are occupied by women, the highest in the world, and almost double the global average (22%). The next five countries on the list are all near neighbours: Georgia (38%), Poland (37%), Latvia (36%), Estonia (35%) and Lithuania (33%). 
 
Hisham Farouk, CEO of Grant Thornton UAE, said:
“The domination of Eastern European nations and significant steps in the right direction within the UAE is explained by a blend of factors including history, culture and demographics. A thriving culture of female entrepreneurship is creating future legacy as the ideal of equality and opportunity extends into the broad range of subjects women study in the region. Consequently we find women well represented in services industries too; and not just those traditionally with high numbers of women like healthcare and hospitality, but emerging industries such as financial services, aviation and technology. 
 
“With approximately 30 per cent of first-year female students in a university in Abu Dhabi alone studying towards an aviation Bachelor of Science degree. Greater access to education will continue to lead the way for females within the UAE.
 
“What can the rest of the world learn from Eastern Europe and the UAE? Some of the recommendations we set out in our report - including changing societal norms around the role of women and eradicating gender bias - are directly drawn from what is working and needs to be further embedded within the home, workplace and within society.”
 
Globally, 22% of senior roles held by women is slightly up from 2004 (19%) but down from 24% last year, highlighting broad stagnation. Japan remains at the bottom of the list with just 8% of senior roles held by women, followed by Germany (14%) and India (15%). There have been pockets of improvement, however, with 26% of senior roles in the EU now occupied by women – an all-time high. This has been driven by France (33%), Sweden (28%) and Greece (27%). At the same time though the number in Latin America has fallen to 18% - an all-time low.
 
Francesca Lagerberg, Global Head of Tax at Grant Thornton International states:
“We’ve heard businesses talk the talk on gender equality for decades now, but still too few are walking the walk. Aside from the moral issue of ensuring equal opportunity for all, a more representative blend of women and men in senior roles just makes good business sense. If an economy is only using half its most talented people then it immediately cuts its growth potential.
 
Hisham adds “this presents real challenges not just for businesses but for governments, society and women too. Society must adjust to changes in the way we live and work too. Governments can support this by continuing to build the infrastructure to allow women to thrive in the workforce. This could, for example, include mandating quotas for women on boards.”
 
With the lead up to 2020 being said to be a memorable one for the UAE, it could be the year that sees a dynamic workforce that is represented by both genders, with the UAE becoming known as the leading nation for gender equality and boardroom representation.