Bain & Company's new report reveals a significant increase and integration of Women in the GCC Workforce
The Advancing Gender Equity in the Middle East Workforce report from Bain & Company has revealed that while the GCC has seen change in terms of women representation in the workforce, proactive and measurable gender equity still needs to be achieved.
Despite significant strides, the GCC still faces one of the largest gender gaps in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. The gap is most evident at the leadership level. For example, approximately 7 percent of board seats are held by women in the GCC, versus 20 percent globally.
Regional data from the report shows that governments across the GCC have played a significant role in catalyzing gender equity across sectors. Qatar at 60 percent and the UAE at 53 percent, continue to lead the region when it comes to females participating in the workforce. Saudi Arabia has seen the fastest pace of change, reaching 37 percent female participation in the first quarter of 2023, exceeding the country’s Vision 2030 targets more than seven years ahead of schedule.
Muna Al Gurg, Vice Chairperson and Director of Retail Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, commented in the report, “Closing the gender gap in the workforce is not only a moral imperative, but one that has a measurable impact on economic growth. Besides expanding the talent pool, gender diverse teams tend to make better decisions and drive higher profitability. It is important that businesses listen to women, to understand their needs and create clear pathways of success for them. Capable and forward-thinking HR departments can play a significant role here and make fair decisions that give equal opportunities to both genders.”
By taking a closer look at the underlying causes, Bain & Company’s research highlights that 70 percent of women mention gender bias and stereotypes as the primary challenge, along with inadequate hiring processes, lack of mentorship, training, and support for work-life balance. These challenges hinder women’s corporate leadership advancement in the region, and similar challenges are faced globally.
Research shows that teams that are gender and geographically diverse make better business decisions 87 percent of the time and 70 percent of top performing teams in the GCC have a higher percentage of women.
Bain & Company has developed an approach rooted in research and experience that helps organizations gain an understanding of their starting point and decide on the best path forward, in terms of practices. This approach encompasses five key pillars:
Holistic gender equity strategy, vision, and leadership commitment
Workplace culture, inclusion, and belonging
Compensation and benefits
External engagement with customers, suppliers, the community plus governments, and clear measurable goals supported by practical organizational policies and programs
Bain’s analysis showed that 50 percent of GCC organizations fall into Tier 1 (Emerging Adopters just starting their equity journey), while 40 percent are Tier 2 (Determined Learners - businesses that are picking up on their journey), and less than 10 percent demonstrate Tier 3 attributes (Trailblazers, the earliest global pioneers in gender equity practices).
Anne-Laure Malauzat, Partner and Chief DEI officer at Bain & Company Middle East, said: “Women have been changing the face of the workforce in the GCC, with a growing number of organizations reaching the tipping point of 30 percent representation. The government push for gender equity has been a massive trigger of this change and more organizations have seen the clear benefits of gender diversity and added it to their agenda in the last 5 years as a result. What is inspiring is that several of these organizations are homegrown and pioneering gender equity practices and policies at a global level in a way that is uniquely reflective of the region’s cultural and societal context.”
The report includes the results of a survey of 1,150 professional men and women and diagnostics of 25 of the largest GCC organizations, in addition to focus groups and interviews with 50 female leaders in the GCC.