Where do women stand in the UAE fi­nan­cial ser­vices pro­fes­sion?

Matthew Cowan looks into the role of women in the fi­nance in­dus­try, and how to boost gen­der par­ity

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS - Matthew Cowan

HIGH-LEVEL po­si­tions in pro­fes­sions such as fi­nan­cial ser­vices fall short when it comes to di­ver­sity, par­tic­u­larly in terms of gen­der.

Even though en­try level gen­der par­ity is good, the pro­por­tion of women dwin­dles dras­ti­cally with the more se­nior and man­age­rial po­si­tions in nearly all in­ter­na­tional mar­kets across dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries.

Ac­cord­ing to an ACCA re­port en­ti­tled Women in Fi­nance: Be­yond the num­bers, women ac­count for 2 per cent of board po­si­tions across the six coun­tries of the GCC – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE. Women fill only 17 per cent of all ex­ec­u­tive roles in the pro­fes­sion in the UAE. With women set to suc­ceed on so many lev­els, statis­tics re­flect an un­premed­i­tated bias in the mech­a­nisms pow­er­ing ca­reer ad­vance­ment, which is af­fect­ing the progress of the fi­nan­cial ser­vices pro­fes­sion as a whole.

In­di­vid­ual-level pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment drives or­gan­i­sa­tion level progress. With a broader, more di­verse ta­lent pool and im­proved hu­man cap­i­tal, firms can en­sure the best pos­si­ble group of can­di­dates sit at their helm. How­ever, struc­tural ob­sta­cles are lim­it­ing this pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment amongst cer­tain groups of em­ploy­ees.

Highly ca­pa­ble fe­male prac­ti­tion­ers are fail­ing to climb the ca­reer lad­der the way they should due to a lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties. This re­sults in a lack of di­ver­sity at top man­age­rial and di­rec­to­rial lev­els, in­cur­ring costs to in­di­vid­u­als and busi­ness firms.

LinkedIn re­cently found that a lack of fe­male lead­er­ship was per­ceived as one of the top three ob­sta­cles pre­vent­ing women from ad­vanc­ing in fi­nan­cial ser­vices – mak­ing it a vi­cious cir­cle. Women are un­able to grow and there­fore there is a lack of women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions to en­cour­age ca­reer-ori­ented women to rise to the top. It is vi­tal that pro­fes­sion­als early in their ca­reers see peo­ple like them­selves in the po­si­tions they aspire to have. This al­lows in­di­vid­u­als to broaden the scope of pos­si­bil­i­ties they per­ceive for them­selves, mo­ti­vat­ing them to aim higher.

In a work­place cul­ture that so of­ten draws dis­tinc­tions es­pe­cially in terms of gen­der, qual­i­fi­ca­tions are an in­valu­able tool. Pro­fes­sional bod­ies such as the Char­tered In­sti­tute for Se­cu­ri­ties & In­vest­ment (CISI) al­low can­di­dates to arm them­selves with tan­gi­ble proof of their skills and pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the form of ac­cred­i­ta­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. With these, ca­reer growth is less sub­ject to the power of bias. The abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate pro­fes­sion­al­ism with well-founded in­tegrity and work ethics evens the play­ing field, giv­ing all pro­fes­sion­als an equal chance to progress in their ca­reer.

The CISI and sim­i­lar or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fer their mem­bers un­lim­ited re­sources for con­tin­u­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. Plat­forms like these sig­nif­i­cantly em­power pro­fes­sion­als to fo­cus on, and en­hance, their skills, knowl­edge and ethics.

Through these un­bi­ased pro­cesses of ac­cred­i­ta­tion and ed­u­ca­tion, women are able to rise up the ca­reer lad­der with progress pro­por­tion­ate to their mer­its. In a male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try such as fi­nan­cial ser­vices, these chances for de­vel­op­ment and recog­ni­tion are cru­cial in pro­duc­ing a top-level ta­lent pool that rep­re­sents the di­ver­sity of the work­force in this re­gion.

With fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms un­der­go­ing a sig­nif­i­cant par­a­digm shift with tech ad­vance­ments, new en­trants in the mar­ket and a de­mand for a more reg­u­lated fi­nan­cial en­vi­ron­ment, hav­ing a flex­i­ble, in­no­va­tive work­force is a pri­or­ity. To en­sure this, it is crit­i­cal that lead­er­ship must not only be equipped with ca­pa­bil­ity, but also di­ver­sity.

It has been proven time and time again that work­forces with gen­der par­ity at all lev­els are more for­ward think­ing, which leads to a more pos­i­tive work­place cul­ture, greater con­nec­tions with clients and more im­proved com­pe­ten­cies. The re­silience of­fered by a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent gen­ders, na­tion­al­i­ties and back­grounds is an as­set that should be ac­knowl­edged and ad­dressed in a dy­namic and fast-paced in­dus­try.

It is cru­cial that we recog­nise the value of fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion in pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ments and break the pat­terns that are pre­vent­ing women from suc­ceed­ing.

Cel­e­brat­ing di­ver­sity and pro­vid­ing ev­ery pro­fes­sional an equal chance, re­gard­less of gen­der, cul­ti­vates a high stan­dard of pro­fes­sion­al­ism not only in the fi­nan­cial ser­vice pro­fes­sion, but also in all in­dus­tries.


Matthew Cowan

Re­gional di­rec­tor of Char­tered In­sti­tute for Se­cu­ri­ties and In­vest­ment ( CISI) in the Mid­dle East

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