Women’s day Special, Women advancing in their careers

March 8, 2013 | By More

Women have certainly moved up the ranks but pay disparity still exists

As women all around the world celebrated their strengths and achievements on Friday, the question on many people’s minds is whether the battle for equality of the sexes has been won. There’s no doubt men are still dominating the corporate world by numbers, but women have certainly moved up the ranks.

Studies have shown that women are eagerly marching forward, taking on jobs that used to be the domain of men. They have proven their ability to lead and excel in the finance industry, as well as in engineering, technology and other sectors.

“While the workforce continues to remain male-dominated, women are certainly and most evidently advancing to the front lines, to work in leadership and management roles,” said Hazel Jackson, CEO of biz-group.

At a male-dominated financial professional group, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima), women are also proving their worth. The body accounts for more than 170,000 members and students, of which almost 40 per cent are female. “While there isn’t a particular sector that has seen women overtake men in numbers, there has been an increase in the number of women opting for a career in traditionally male dominated sectors,” noted Geethu Ahuja, head of GCC, Middle East, at Cima.

According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2012 from the World Economic Forum, the UAE continues to lead the Arab world in terms of career prospects for women. “The UAE’s rapid economic growth has created many opportunities for women to pursue roles that call for accounting and finance management skills,” Ahuja said.

“Studies show that having a higher representation of women in senior roles is linked to stronger financial performance. Women tend to use what’s called the transformational style of leadership with the emphasis on hard work, respect, consultation. This is different from the traditional transactional style favoured by men which relies on power position and formal authority.”

However, as far as senior roles are concerned, Ahuja said women are still underrepresented and there remains a disparity in salary. “Women are definitely moving up the ranks in the corporate world but gender pay gap remains and inequalities are stark, especially in the finance sector,” said Ahuja.

Illustrating pay disparity between the sexes, Ahuja cited that Cima male members in Malaysia pocket 51 per cent more than female members. According to a White Paper by Hawkamah in 2012, the number of women occupying board seats in the region dropped to 43 in 2011. In 2007, women held 60 board seats, representing only 1.5 per cent of the total board population.

A 2010 global survey of 4,500 finance and business professionals conducted by Cima and the University of Bath School of Management likewise showed that female members are six times less likely than their male counterparts to be working as CFOs or CEOs. “While this may be the current trend, Cima believes women entering business now are in a stronger position to turn things around,” said Ahuja.

“The UAE has strong examples of women who are showcasing their capabilities and easing the path for others. Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the first female minister, has made incredible progress as the Minister of Foreign Trade and board member of the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce,” she said.

Another noteworthy female personality is Raja Eisa Al Gurg, who is active in several industries as the managing director of the construction company Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group and president of the Dubai Business Women’s Council. “With their high visibility and success, they are addressing any stereotypical issues perceived with having women in the workplace,” said Ahuja

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