Ambitious women ‘will boost GCC outlook’
Dubai, January 29, 2012
GCC firms that tap into a base of talented national women that is well-educated and eager to join the workforce will get a long-term competitive edge and also assume a key role in shaping the future of women in the region, said an expert.
“There are clear benefits to be claimed. The companies that take the lead in this issue will help address the GCC’s unemployment problem among nationals,” added Ramez Shehadi, partner with Booz & Company, a leading global management consulting firm.
Private and semi-private companies in the GCC are under enormous pressure to nationalize their workforce, owing to a combination of high regional unemployment and a currently outsized proportion of expatriate workers in the region, said a report by Booz & Company.
Thus far the talent pool of women employees in the region remains largely untapped, due to social, occupational, and legal challenges. Private and semi-private organizations in the GCC do not rely heavily on GCC nationals to fill their employment needs, and they rely even less on women as a group.
Private-sector companies in the GCC have an opportunity to address several pressing issues, including nationalization imperatives and local unemployment, by attracting more national women into their workforce. Booz & Company has developed a framework to help companies in this effort, it said in a report.
The framework consists of three elements: 1) defining an overall corporate vision for employing women based on a solid case for change; 2) developing a talent management strategy and operating model to source, train, promote, and retain women; and 3) implementing a change management strategy to engage with and secure the support of internal and external stakeholders.
Women’s employment vision
One thing is clear from the efforts of companies worldwide to attract and retain talented women: Implementing diversity for diversity’s sake does not work. To begin successfully integrating women into their workforce, GCC companies must have a senior champion who can make a business case for the need to do so.
“Creating such a business case is not without challenges. There is little in the way of objective, broad-based research that clearly establishes the importance of integrating women into the workforce, and none that is specific to the region,” said Dr Leila Hoteit, principal with Booz & Company.
“However, anecdotal evidence from a multitude of companies shows the value that a strong female talent base can engender. A business case could be based on any of three elements: workforce, customers, or suppliers.”
The second element of the framework requires developing a comprehensive approach to hire the most promising women candidates, invest in developing their technical and soft skills, evaluate them objectively, and retain them.
“Companies can partner with leading technology training institutions to establish a pipeline of women professionals with specialized technical experience,” said Dr Kamal Tarazi, principal with Booz & Company.
“For example, the Women in Technology (WIT) program, a collaboration between Microsoft and local women’s organisations, teaches computer skills to women in nine Middle East and North Africa countries. Since its launch in 2005, WIT has trained more than 3,500 women throughout the Mena region.”
“Because increasing women’s participation is a complex initiative with potential ramifications for the entire organization, companies will require an extensive change management strategy in order to succeed,” said Shehadi.
“At the outset, all relevant stakeholders, both internal and external, must understand the program and its objectives. This may require overcoming misguided but still prevalent perceptions among some about the roles of women in society, or their ability to succeed in the private-sector workplace.”
“Introducing women into the GCC private-sector workforce will not be easy, and there is a risk of moving too fast. Even those companies that are most aggressively pursuing nationalization cannot simply replace one skilled and experienced expat worker with one national woman,” said Dr Hoteit.
“In the longer term, this change is inevitable. Attitudes in the region are changing, and many companies are now actively working to define their strategic vision for how women will fit into their workforce. Women have the education and—more important—the desire to play a more central role in the region’s labor market.”
The entrance of more women into the regional economy will serve as an economic multiplier, creating benefits for each nation as a whole.
“Booz & Company’s research on the “Third Billion” — the billion women worldwide who are poised to have an impact on the global economy as workers and consumers — shows that these new engines of economic activity create vast markets and increase the size and quality of the talent pool,” concluded Tarazi.
“In periods of relative prosperity, their aspirations and persistence are engines for growth. In slower periods, they represent pockets of economic activity that ameliorate the impact of decline.” – TradeArabia News Service