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04 October 2023

Why men in UAE boards perform better with women at the chair

Benchmarking study assesses what companies do on a daily basis to earn and sustain the trust and respect of their people. (Shutterstock)

By Waheed Abbas

The presence of non-family women tends to bring out the best in men’s behaviour, and also keeps them focused on their work.

This proves even truer when it comes to women chairing the boards of companies in the UAE and other GCC countries.

The results of a survey conducted on UAE and GCC corporates showed that, generally, a sense of formality prevails in case of a woman’s presence during the meetings at the upper echelon of corporate strata and the discussions prove more fruitful even as the mood remains more formal.

“In the GCC, the presence of women leaders prompts a greater sense of formality in company meetings — most likely because there are fewer occasions for mixed-gender interactions there than in other regions and participants behave more formally when they do occur,” according to a survey by the consultancy McKinsey & Co.

Not just that, the survey also found that a majority of them – both men and women alike – felt that the added formality led to more task-focused and efficient discussions during the board meetings.

The respondents believe that the behaviour of females in the higher echelon of GCC corporates inspire more than their male counters.

“Women in the GCC scored higher than men on three of the four kinds of behaviour (inspiration, people development, and efficient communication) that global leaders in a previous Women Matter survey chose most often as showing ‘a significant gap between current prevalence and future needs,” McKinsey said.

80% of UAE firms looking to induct women on their boards Meanwhile, the presence of women in the UAE’s upper echelon of corporate strata is set for major shift as more than 80 per cent of companies are looking in to induct females in their boards.

The McKinsey & Co. survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of respondents in the GCC indicated that the topic of women in leadership was on their organisations’ strategic agendas.

Among these companies, 41 per cent of respondents said that the issue had appeared on their agendas over the past 10 years.

However, significant regional differences remain.

In the UAE, more than 85 per cent of respondents said that the topic was on the corporate agenda, but in Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest labour market, less than half did.

One way companies benefit from gender diversity is a more balanced mix of leadership strengths.

The region’s women were more optimistic about the pace of change: Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of them said that women in leadership would “absolutely” be increasingly important on their organisations’ strategic agendas over the next five years, versus just 51 per cent of the men.

Despite being significantly underrepresented in C-suites and corporate boards across the GCC states, women are making strides.

A McKinsey research project finds that gender diversity is gaining a place on the corporate agenda across the GCC as companies there increasingly recognise the potential of women leaders to enhance organisational effectiveness.

A closer look at the region’s evolving social attitudes toward women in leadership — and the significant challenges that remain —underscore how corporate and government action could help create environments where women leaders more fully contribute their knowledge, skills, and expertise.

Such outcomes would benefit not only the women involved but their organisations and national economies as well.

Increasing the number of women in leadership would improve the region’s low rate of labour participation for women – 32 per cent in the GCC versus 51 per cent in the European Union.