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Women are better for business, says Booz & Co
Educated and ambitious, the GCC’s female population is key to solving economic issues in the region. Booz & Co shows you the whys and how to get on the bandwagon.
January 29, 2012 2:56 by Precious de Leon
Private and semi-private companies in the GCC are under enormous pressure to nationalise their workforce, owing to a combination of high regional unemployment and a currently outsized proportion of expatriate workers in the region.
Yet, it’s still not uncommon to hear GCC women who are interviewing for jobs to share stories of gender-bias and just plan sexism when speaking with some of these companies.
One colleague shared the story that during the job interview, the interviewer blatantly said that even though she had glowing credentials, they company will not hire her because she is newly married and there’s a possibility of wanting to have kids soon.
Another story comes from a woman who was asked if she could guarantee wearing a skirt everyday to work because it “looked more professional for women” to do so.
What these companies don’t realise—besides how their behaviour could be grounds for a sexual harassment case—is they have the opportunity to address these issues by attracting more national women into their workforce, according to Booz & Co—which happens to have developed just the framework to help companies specifically for this endeavor.
Anyway, so far the talent pool of women employees in the region remains largely untapped, unsurprisingly due to social, occupational, and legal challenges. Needless to say, companies in the region have long relied on a largely expatriate and predominantly male workforce.
“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 nationalisation cannot simply replace one skilled and experienced expat worker with one national woman,” said Dr Leila Hoteit, Principal, Booz & Co.
“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 labour market.”
So what can be done to correct this lopsided employee demographic?
The trick here is to strike a balance between conventional ways of retaining female employees worldwide and the sensitive cultural attitudes in the region.
Reaping the Rewards
Reflecting on how companies worldwide attract and retain talented women, one thing is clear: implementing diversity for diversity’s sake does not work.
But 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,” said Dr Kamal Tarazi, principal, Booz & Co.
“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.”
THREE great reasons why offices benefit from hiring women:
Workforce: Dedicated efforts to recruit and retain women does more than just fill talent gaps. A diverse workforce leads to higher employee engagement across the board. More than 100 studies have demonstrated the correlation between employee engagement and business performance: Engaged employees are far more productive and committed, and they are more likely to make progress toward company goals, as well as the goals of their own group.
Customers: Companies in a wide variety of sectors will need to more effectively target women as this key demographic’s spending power continues to grow. To do so, companies need to ensure not only that they have women on staff but that women are in the right positions to enhance the company’s go-to-market strategy with their insights, such as R&D, product development, marketing, and sales. (CONTINUED TO NEXT PAGE)