GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Women in business leadership in the United Arab Emirates; females shaping their environment.
Paper Proposal Text :
Women in business leadership in the United Arab Emirates; females shaping their environment.

The socio-cultural, political, economic and legal environment impacts on the world of global business. The subject of this paper is to investigate how women in the United Arab Emirates are shaping this external environment to progress each other in business leadership.

Female leadership, Mentor, Network, Role model, United Arab Emirates.

Not too many years ago there was an absence of women in work in the UAE as few females were actually employed due to a religious interpretation that precluded them working outside the home (Omar and Davidson, 2001). That being noted, she was yesterday, and remains today, a leader in the home or community. There has been over the past decade, an improvement in the managerial positions of women within the countries that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Omair, 2008). The contribution of females in the work force to a country’s social, political, and economic agenda is considered by many authors (Al-Alak and Al-Haddad, 2010). There are stimulating findings on the advantages that female leadership can offer to business; relationship building, collaboration, female leadership as inspirational, and the multiplier effect of the female entrepreneur (Altintas and Altintas, 2008).

1 To confirm the presence of women in leadership roles in the UAE today, the author conducted a gender analysis of 533 managerial positions in 100 local companies.
• 47 females
• 9% of senior positions
• 4% of the Board of Directors
• One CEO
• 8% of Director/VP positions
• 12 % head of department or other mid management level
The above figures capture data only for a set of private companies.

2 To investigate how women are shaping the environment of business leadership, 50 UAE government and corporate websites were reviewed. Four significant approaches were discovered that women leverage to strengthen female leadership (Figure 1.):

Figure 1. Findings
Business environment Evidence Approach
Socio-cultural family support by females
Political women entering politics Mentoring
Legal women within a legal frame Networking
Economic female entrepreneurship Role models

It is recognized from study 1. that more females enter the governmental services. This has been due to the security of employment in government jobs, as well as benefits of shorter hours, better pay and less work than the private sector (Nelson, 2004). The UAE Women's Federation wants to extend female employment out from the main public occupational areas of medicine, health and teaching, and towards private companies and into entrepreneurship (Burden-Leahy, 2009).

From study 2. It was a consideration for this research that women may be unrepresented on websites because of a societal custom relating to the impropriety of revealing the face in public. However, the majority of the women leaders appear in photographs, although an exception was Her Highness Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qassimi. The shaping of a cultural environment to allow female images enhances UAE women’s presence in the global business environment. Womens’ words, as quoted on websites, ensures that she is heard in a global conversation; a few examples are given below (Table 1.).

Table 1. Women’s leadership voices

Name Position Organisation Their leadership
HH Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qassimi
Chairperson Supreme Council for Family Affairs “launched the aid campaign "Together For Lebanon" to support the relief efforts in Lebanon”.
Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi Member UAE's National Federal Council (FNC) “the UAE sets an example in women empowerment and participation in sustainable development”
HE Ameera A. Binkaram Chairperson Sharjah Business Women Council "One of the main objectives of Sharjah Business Women Council is to transform entrepreneurs creative ideas into real businesses “
HE Fatima al Jaber COO Al Jaber group “an accomplished engineer with significant expertise in the management of international businesses”

It is a phenomenon of this society that senior roles are taken by those from certain families, however the promotion of women to such positions is fairly recent. Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi, niece of the ruler of Sharjah, perhaps being the first example when she became CEO of, and now a prominent UAE politician (Kemp, 2008). The leadership by female members of high ranking families is seen, quoted and promoted. For example, here HH Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qassimi, although not photographed, is still contributing to female leadership through her work as Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs. The promotion of a successful female leader, HE Fatima al Jaber, is actively endorsed by the family business, as quoted from the Al Jaber group website.

Laws have enshrined the rights of women to work outside the home and to manage businesses. A female judge, Ibtisam Rashid Badawi, was appointed in the Emirate of Dubai. Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, President of the General Women's Union, has confirmed that many laws have been passed to assure constitutional rights for women. Najla Al Awadhi, former
member of the UAE Parliament, is now a successful entrepreneur (Wharton, 2010). A legal framework being pushed by women from within overcomes a challenge to female leadership in the C21st by opening up opportunities for others to contribute to the economy.

The position of women in organizational leadership has also been advanced through the
creation of professional networks providing female role models and mentoring
opportunities. Her Excellency Ameera bin Karem, Human Resource Manager of a family
business, considers the power of networking as fundamental to her leadership. Women
only networks work with and through women; the UAE Womens Federation mentors
women by women; the Dubai Womens Establishment conducts research into Arab
womens leadership; the Sharjah Business Womens’ Council is mandated to bring more
women into the Emiratesʼ economy.

Through the increased presence of female role models, professional networks and mentoring, women are successfully shaping the external business environment in line with their particular strengths. Strengths in collaboration, relationship building, and inspiration are attributes of women globally (Metcalfe, 2007). These skills are being used by UAE women for their own leadership progress. Further shaping of the business environment is needed by UAE women to increase the levels of women entrepreneurship, and to address the gender imbalance that remains in private business.

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