The round table session, facilitated by ACCA, the global body for professional accountants, highlighted that although anecdotal evidence points towards women outperforming their male counterparts at graduate and qualification levels, lifestyle expectations and family commitments often result in a withdrawal from the workforce rather than progressing higher up the corporate ladder.
Helen Brand, Global CEO, ACCA, said during the working group session: “In the UAE we have a significant talent pool to draw upon, the issue we face however, is that a large percentage of this talent is not participating in the workforce at a leadership level. Twenty per cent of ACCA qualified senior financial professionals are women. Lifestyle pressures and family responsibilities often mean that the glass ceiling tends to kick in at the middle to senior management level.
“At the heart of the debate is the need to recognise the value of the profession, and those individuals who have worked hard to earn their qualifications. Qualified is a term often used alongside academic achievement, and while this has merit, it is important that we raise awareness of what it means to be a qualified professional in order to ensure that employers value that skill set, and the ethical codes that the individual has signed up for.”
Citing the need for flexible working arrangements which allow women to remain working following childbirth, Ginnie Carlier, Partner at Ernst & Young, one of the largest professional services firms in the world, commented: “At Ernst & Young we have taken an active approach to supporting diversity and inclusion within our teams in the region. By developing and improving our maternity leave policy and flexible working arrangements, we have been able to retain talent, such people who might have opted out of the workforce to raise their families. However in order to ensure that firms are acting in tune with the needs of all team members and in the spirit of inclusion, it is important that flexible work schemes are open to male as well as female workers. We are proud of the work we have done to date, but recognise that this is an evolving process that we are continuously working on.”
However, it is not just the need for gender diversification that is driving discussions in the financial sector in the UAE and other GCC markets. ACCA currently has 157 UAE nationals as students studying for their qualifications within the UAE and abroad, and is actively working with a number of local organisations to highlight the opportunities for UAE nationals in the accounting and finance sectors, and ensure that the industry is seen as a viable long term career option.
Suzy Baxter, Head of UAE, ACCA, commented on the issue of encouraging local talent into the profession: “Being ACCA qualified means that members have an effective passport to work in the profession in any market across the globe. As issues such as Emiratization become more prominent, the accounting and finance profession should be viewed as a viable career path for any Emirati seeking to work at the cutting edge of business, be it international, regional or domestic.”
On the issue of nationalization in other GCC markets, Fatma Al-Kharusi, the first Omani woman to qualify ACCA and Finance Director of Petroleum Development Oman, the Sultanate’s foremost exploration and production company, concluded:
“Experience shows that where there is a push from the top management on nationalization, then it works. And as more qualified nationals take over senior jobs, the effect is multiplied. As for women, demonstrated ability goes a long way in acceptability. To give the example of our company, our workforce is now 80% Omani, and a third of the top management is women.”
Wednesday, March 7- 2012 @ 15:58 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.