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A multi-ethnic group of business people are indoors in an office boardroom. According to McKinsey report, women “remain underrepresented, particularly women of colour”. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Yet another recent study shows what’s already known all too well - women are yet to have a proper representation on corporate boards and top executive positions. Despite repeated commitments by many to have more women as CEOs and in decision-making, little has changed.

Top businesswomen say this needs to remain on the agenda not because women would offer new management styles but because they see things differently. Having women on the board of directors should be looked at as a “business case”, said Hoda Abou-Jamra, founding Partner at TVM Capital Healthcare Partners, part of TVM Capital, a $1.8 billion (Dh6.6 billion) private equity and venture capital firm.

“You need to address your clientele,” said Abou-Jamra. “Who is your clientele? It is 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men. So if you have only men in decision-making, you are missing out on 50 per cent sales and you are not doing the right thing for investors.”

Gender diversity in needed “because I need to give the best return for my investors. This is why my investors are giving me money.”

McKinsey, in a report on “Women in the Workplace 2018,” said only 13 per cent of US companies surveyed had taken the step to calculate the positive impact on gender diversity on their business. The report, based on four years of data from 462 companies employing 19.6 million, added that “companies need to change the way they hire and promote entry and manger-level employees to make real progress”.

According to another report from McKinsey Global Institute in 2015, closing gender gaps in the workforce could add $28 trillion to global GDP - almost the size of the US and Chinese economies combined.

McKinsey’s report concluded that women “remain underrepresented, particularly women of colour”. In contrast to what companies say about their commitment, only around half of their employees think the company sees gender diversity as a priority, and 20 per cent say their commitment feels like paying lip service.

Women need to make up at least 30 per cent of a company’s decision-making executive positions to make gender diversity become something “natural”, said Abou-Jamra.

If the members of the board are men and they are interviewing people to be the CEO or another top position, they will choose a man.

“People (do it) unconsciously, not because they are sexist and not committed for women and gender diversity,” she added. “As a human being, you pick somebody who is like you and who does the same thing that reminds you of you. So if in decision taking (positions), you don’t have a minimum 30 per cent women, it is difficult to end up having 30 per cent women.”

Maitha Juma Saif Bin Bakhit, CEO of Airlink International Freight Forwarding, says women also need to put in more efforts to show they are qualified for high positions. “Men would choose a man, and not a woman. And when the woman works, she puts double the effort a man would put in the business, paying close attention to the details and showing willingness to work long hours to achieve the desired results and to show others she is up to the task.”

She took up the position in the family business after her father died. Equipped with her previous experience in the public sector, Bakhit started her new role with the family’s blessings.

Many women in top positions said they want to be selected because they are smart and not simply because of their gender.

According to Hulya Ebrahim, Vice-President and General Manager of MEA Institutional at Ecolab, “I believe women leaders have the ability create a collaborative environment and embrace diversity, simply because of their maternal nature. Women also tend to have a stronger sense of empathy and this leads them to having the skills required to understand people and provide solutions that are practical and help all members of the company reach their goals.”