Female role advancing in GCC family businesses

12 March 2015 Consultancy.uk

Female participation in governance positions of a business has been shown to have positive results not only for diversity, but also for income growth. In the GCC the rate of participation remains low, however, a recent survey by Strategy& reveals that improvement is expected in the coming years. This improvement follows, among others, from the higher participation rates in all levels of education.

Around 50 to 60 years ago a boom period for small businesses in the Gulf Cooperation Council* (GCC) area began. With a combination of limited foreign competition and favourable macro-economic conditions, the stage was set to grow businesses that now make up 80% of the regions non-oil GDP. The vitality and future of these businesses is important for the region as a whole, and with many about to be passed to the next generation, changes are abound in the region.

How to advance womans role in GCC family businesses

Strategy&, in cooperation with the Al Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center, recently released its ‘Leveraging an untapped talent pool’ report. In this research, the consulting firm focuses on the level of female diversity in the GCC small business environment; it explores the benefits women produce and the barriers they face in their engagement with family businesses. The report builds on research by Credit Suisse that found that large companies with female board members tend to outperform male dominated boards, citing that over the past six year period net income growth was 40% faster in companies with at least one female director on the board.

Low participation
In terms of the current trend in the GCC region compared to global averages, the participation of females in board or managerial positions continues to be low. Globally there is an upward trend for women gaining access to the highest echelons of business, with women in senior management positions globally increasing from 19% in 2004 to 24% in 2014. In GCC countries participation rate generally remain low, with the UAE out ahead at 14% of managerial positions filled by women, but only 1% of governance positions. Saudi Arabia only has 0.1% female board participation. 

The insight and touch of women is particularly strong in ‘emerging markets’, with 43% of senior managers in Russia, 41% in Indonesia, and 40% in the Philippines — ‘developed”’ economies show less prevalence, with 22% in the US, 20% in the UK, 14% in Germany, and only 9% in Japan. In terms of board member representation, there is a reversal, with women more likely to sit in developed countries. 

Women in management and board roles

GCC Barriers
To identify what is holding back female participation in the GCC area, and the potential financial benefit produced by their perspective on the board, the authors** engaged in qualitative interviews of 30 family run businesses across the GCC region. Of the participants, 77% were from Saudi Arabia, 13% from the UAE, 7% from Kuwait and 3% from Bahrain. The majority were second generation businesses and 63% of those interviewed were male.

For female respondents the biggest issues to inclusion in their family’s business were support from family members at 56%, while for males this was only perceived as an issue for women by 17%. Full time dedication to their own family was found to be an issue by 31%, compared to 17% of males seeing this as an issue. 50% of males believed that females are less accepted socially, compared to 31% of females, while 50% of males don’t believe females fit in their sector, compared to 6% of females. 

Top 3 barriers for female participation

Moving forward
According to Strategy&, there is optimism that women will be able to take a more prominent role in the coming years, while 30% of respondents expect no change, 50% say that conditions for women are set to improve in the coming years. With 35% believing that a significant increase will occur in women’s employment in the family business and 20% believing that there will be a significant increase in women present in the board of governance. In addition, 55% believe that women will drive significant development in family culture and disseminating its values.

Three factors are set to contribute to these developments according to the authors:
• Females have higher participation rates in all levels of education and are taking on more ‘male’ dominated areas.
• The move to third generation businesses is opening up the opportunity for women to take an active and leading role in the future of their family’s business.
• Female participation rates are currently averaging 30% in the region, compared to 70%-80% in developed economies. This is changing however, with the issue placed in the “forefront of national agendas.”

BCG and Dubai
Recently The Boston Consulting Group, one of Strategy&’s key rivals globally and in the Middle East region, was hired by the Economic Council of Dubai to support the emirate with boosting the maturity of family businesses in the region.

* The Gulf Cooperation Council is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

** The research was headed by Strategy& professionals Fadi Majdalani (Partner; based in Beirut), Ramy Sfeir (Partner; based in Abu Dhabi), Patrick Nader (Senior Associate; based in Beirut) and Basmah M. Omair, Executive Director of Al Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.