Developing women in the workplace: is middle management the problem?

February 6, 2017 12:22 pm

* Finding and retaining the right talent are two top challenges GCC companies face

* Top executive commit to development of women, but middle management may not

* In the GCC in particular, mentoring is perceived as a way to overcome social pressures that could prevent women becoming more engaged in senior roles


Finding the right female talent and retaining them to create a balanced and diverse workplace are two of the biggest challenges companies face today, a new report has revealed.

Pearl Initiative, a leading Gulf business-led organisation fostering a corporate culture of accountability and transparency, released its Women’s Careers in the GCC – Four Good Practice Case Studies, focusing on various aspects of female employment.

The company conducted surveys of four of the region’s leading companies – General Electric (GE), Olayan Group, Pepsico and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) – each a leader in their domain.


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Internal challenge

While top executives of several regional firms have expressed their commitment to diversifying the workplace by including and promoting women to managerial positions, there seems to be a glitch in the journey to the top.

“Middle management has a very big impact on the development and promotion of women and the environment in which women are working… I think it still needs to have the direction from the top. I think having that direction… Middle management needs to be clear about what is expected of them; they also need to be supported,” Carla Koffel, Executive Director of The Pearl Initiative, told AMEinfo.

“This is not just about engaging with women; this is about engaging with both men and women in middle management, so that there is a cohesion and an understanding about what’s expected, and acknowledgment that this is not always easy, and that both men and women in those middle management positions then need that support to be able to make decisions which provide opportunities for women,” Koffel added.


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Key priority

Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consultancy and advisor on business strategy, interviewed senior representatives from GCC companies and revealed that these firms are becoming increasingly aware about the importance of having an engaged pool of women at the senior level.

According to the BCG, c-suite executives understand that it is their responsibility to raise awareness for other management levels in the company and to act as role models to ensure the continuous engagement of women.

In the GCC in particular, mentoring is perceived as a way to overcome social pressures that could prevent women becoming more engaged in senior roles, the organisation noted.


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Follow the lead

While not all companies of different sizes might have the same research, training and development capabilities, Koffel hopes releasing such case studies can influence others.

“Doing the case study report and highlighting some of the best practices is very much within our philosophy about how we then support the organisation to be developing and changing their practices, of which supporting diversity and women in leadership is [a priority],” Koffel noted.

“Having practical examples about how some organisations are tackling these issues is meant to inspire and  spark discussion, and it acknowledges that no two companies are the same and that every company has to be adapting a programme into their own organisation, culture, approach and industry, which is then going to be relevant for them,” she added.


Hind Mustafa
By Hind Mustafa
Hind Mustafa specializes on the business of luxury in the region; she also covers hospitality and technology sectors. With more than four years' experience, she brings depth and clarity to the region's business news and views.