I found Lina Saigol and Roula Khalaf’s article in the FT yesterday titled “Women make gains in Arab boardrooms” particularly interesting bearing in mind that I spent three and a half years based in Dubai. From a survey into boards in the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council, it seems that public companies listed in Oman and Kuwait have more women (2.7 per cent in Kuwait) on their boards than in Italy (2 per cent) and Japan (0.4 per cent).
However, these figures are not representative of the region as a whole where only 30 per cent of woman play a part in their economies versus 55 per cent worldwide. My personal experience of working in the middle east is that women are well-respected in business and are a formidable force to be reckoned with. The UAE, in particular, is vitally aware of the impact of having 50 per cent of their ‘local’ workforce in play – and my impression is that women are encouraged to excel in the workplace.
From a personal brand perspective, I found that the women in business that I met are particularly aware of how they are perceived and the initial impressions that they make. Business is still primarily oiled by relationships and reputations in a far more obvious way than in the UK and USA where the fundamentals are often masked by big company brands. Not that personal brands are necessarily stronger in middle east – rather, they seem to take the lead. I think that we mistakenly rely too heavily on corporate brands in the west – often to the detriment of our careers, and ultimately, the detriment of the companies that we work for.