The region needs more inclusive leaders, but female workers also need to ask for what they want.
Despite changes to social perceptions and policies that support women in employment over the past few decades, the participation rate of women in the labor force in the region is still low. There isn’t a lack of female talent, but not enough women in the Middle East are in senior positions.
The fact is, employers still overlook or underleverage a significant pool of people who are ready, willing and able to help them meet the shortage of talent in their particular geographies.
EY’s recent report ‘Tapping into the talent of our women in the Middle East’ identified three major challenges that women face in the workplace: visible barriers, hidden barriers and external and societal pressures.
Both mentoring and sponsorship have a strong role to play in the development of women, but recent research suggests that women can be over-mentored and under-sponsored.
Mentoring is what happens when you are present in the room; but sponsorship is what happens when your voice is being represented without your presence. The role of sponsor is to help remove any roadblocks, and to intervene and influence on behalf of the employee. Sponsors can leverage their personal and organisational authority to hold line management accountable for retaining, guiding and supporting an employee towards a senior leadership position.
When it comes to flexible working such as working from home, the availability of these options can be inconsistent, particularly in client-facing roles, which can prove challenging. In the past, the perception was that formal flexible working (reduced hours) is just a benefit for working mothers. Over the last five years, there has been a considerable push to shift the mindset from traditional beliefs about presenteeism (people being seen in the office) and long hours to more flexible ways of working. However, the concern still remains among employees (both male and female) that companies will see them as less committed to their role if they aren’t always in the office.