Women are taking their seats on corporate boards, including younger Emiratis

How the role of corporate boards in the UAE has evolved to welcome a new class of executives

When the appointment of women to UAE boards was made mandatory in 2012, much was said about how such a move might help to evolve the region’s economy.

It was suggested that introducing more capable women into leadership roles in an area of the world that had been previously run exclusively by men would not only make companies more competitive but encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

In fact, Bloomberg News reported in 2012 that data from the Credit Suisse Research Institute showed that companies perform better when they have women directors. The report found that shares of companies valued at more than $10 billion (Dh36.72 billion) that had female board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 per cent worldwide over a period of six years.

However, what is perhaps more important than any economic evolution is the social one – the lasting legacy for future generations of women in the UAE and their place within one of the world’s booming economies. And it’s how they achieve this position that is so noteworthy.

Higher education provides the opportunity to develop the next generation of women in leadership in the region. University statistics from the UAE show that female university graduates far outnumber their male counterparts, yet the participation of women in the private sector workforce has historically been startlingly low. Women outnumber men in every element of education within the region, suggesting they are more prepared with the educational background to become leaders, especially in business.

In fact, at Walden University, an online institution with a global reach, more than 60 per cent of our students in the UAE are women. One of our most popular programs in the UAE is the online Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). Women in the DBA program are preparing to take their seats on UAE boards, following in the footsteps of their female role models.

They study, work hard, and network online with a global community of learners. These students are also rising leaders in occupations that include human resources, information technology, supply chain management, healthcare, and our most popular specialization – leadership.

In addition, Walden faculty include some high-profile female professors who have demonstrated leadership skills in their own careers. This allows students to learn from and have discussions with faculty who not only have academic qualifications but also first-hand professional experience and success.

Two years following the boardroom requirement, it’s clear that the role of the corporate board is evolving into one where women play an integral role, not just for their companies but also within the nation’s overall development process. Not just important in a business sense, the changing demographic of women leaders and executive boards in the UAE will show future generations that this is not mere aspiration – it is inspiration at its best. And online higher education is proud to be playing an important role in preparing them to become leaders in their own businesses and to someday take a seat on the board.

(The author is Walden University program director for the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program)

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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