En­hanc­ing UAE women's lead­er­ship in bank­ing ser­vices

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

To­day some 30 per cent of the UAE's women hold se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tions and run their own en­ter­prises in the coun­try. No longer solely work­ing within the hos­pi­tal and govern­ment in­sti­tu­tion space, Emi­rati women are in­creas­ingly pur­su­ing tech­ni­cal and man­age­rial oc­cu­pa­tions across all sec­tors of the ser­vice in­dus­try.

Ear­lier con­sid­ered a con­ven­tion­ally male dom­i­nated in­dus­try, the bank­ing and the fi­nance sec­tor in the UAE is reg­is­ter­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­take of Emi­rati women pro­fes­sion­als as well. Cur­rently, some 8,000 women ac­count for al­most 72 per cent of the UAE na­tion­als in the bank­ing work­force, and ap­prox­i­mately 43 per cent of the to­tal work­force over­all. This is fur­ther ev­i­denced by the Ox­ford Strate­gic Con­sult­ing's 2015 Emi­rati Em­ploy­ment Re­port which states that women are sig­nif­i­cantly more likely (21 per cent) than their male coun­ter­parts (four per cent) to work in bank­ing and fi­nance.

The suc­cess of women can be at­trib­uted to the UAE govern­ment's strong sup­port for women em­pow­er­ment across the re­gion. The govern­ment has launched var­i­ous ini­tia­tives and pro­grammes to di­ver­sify the work­force. The re­cent con­sti­tu­tion of the UAE Gen­der Bal­ance Coun­cil de­signed to en­hance the role of women in the UAE job mar­ket and af­firm their im­por­tance in build­ing the na­tion's fu­ture is a case in point.

Re­it­er­at­ing the im­por­tance of the bank­ing sec­tor as a key player in di­ver­si­fy­ing the econ­omy, the UAE con­tin­ues to ad­dress gaps in the na­tion's fi­nan­cial and bank­ing lit­er­acy and skills do­mains. The UAE Banks Fed­er­a­tion aims to strengthen the sup­port for women in the sec­tor and in­crease fe­male lead­er­ship by at least 10 per cent.

To in­crease Emi­rati par­tic­i­pa­tion and lead­er­ship in this sec­tor, lo­cal and re­gional bank train­ing ini­tia­tives such as Noor Bank's Coach­ing and Men­tor­ing De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme pro­vide both men and women na­tion­als with train­ing in lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment and growth. In ad­di­tion to pre­par­ing na­tion­als for se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tions within the bank, such pro­grammes al­low women per­son­nel to re­ceive the same rig­or­ous and valu­able lead­er­ship train­ing as their male col­leagues. How­ever, de­spite th­ese ef­forts, fe­male lead­er­ship in the bank­ing and fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor re­mains dis­mal in com­par­i­son to the high grad­u­a­tion rates and par­tic­i­pa­tion of women as em­ploy­ees in the sec­tor. Only 12 per cent of women in the UAE hold se­nior man­age­ment roles in bank­ing.

Women are of­ten hes­i­tant to ap­ply to higher level po­si­tions due to con­cerns with the flex­i­ble and re­mote work­ing op­tions avail­able to se­nior man­agers and the neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes as­so­ci­ated with work­ing shorter hours and work weeks. Many women see this as a dis­trac­tion from ful­fill­ing fam­ily obli­ga­tions. Oth­ers lament the com­pen­sa­tion and ca­reer de­vel­op­ment gaps that still favour men.

In or­der to elim­i­nate th­ese bar­ri­ers, men­tor­ing and train­ing pro­grammes such as those pro­vided by Emi­rates In­sti­tute for Bank­ing and Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies (EIBFS) can help women and men ex­cel in their fi­nan­cial ca­reers by hon­ing highly ef­fec­tive and vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship skills.

For ex­am­ple, in 2015, EIBFS in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dar­den School of Busi­ness, Univer­sity of Vir­ginia se­lected the UAE's best and bright­est se­nior man­agers to par­tic­i­pate in its Lead­er­ship De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme. Se­lected on merit, se­nior fe­male ex­ec­u­tives along with their male coun­ter­parts at­tended rig­or­ous cour­ses in Vir­ginia to de­velop and build ef­fec­tive net­works, lead strate­gic change, cul­ti­vate busi­ness acu­men and en­ter­prise think­ing, ne­go­ti­ate ex­cel­lence, man­age con­flict and grow through peer, fac­ulty and ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing.

Fur­ther­more, by pri­ori­tis­ing fe­male lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment, the UAE's cen­tral bank can serve as a key fa­cil­i­ta­tion mech­a­nism to en­cour­age co­op­er­a­tion across banks in the UAE. Suc­cess­fully pro­mot­ing high Emi­rati­sa­tion rates in bank­ing, the cen­tral bank can ex­ert the same fo­cus to­wards sup­port­ing and de­vel­op­ing Emi­rati fe­male tal­ent. Bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions can also es­tab­lish women's net­works that pro­vide tar­geted train­ing, coach­ing and men­tor­ing to fe­male em­ploy­ees. Such net­works should pro­vide ad­e­quate pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and train­ing to fe­male staff and ex­plore the dy­nam­ics of power and in­flu­ence as im­por­tant lead­er­ship com­pe­ten­cies for women. Firms should fo­cus less on 'fix­ing the women' and in­stead look to fix in­sti­tu­tional cul­ture and busi­ness norms.

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