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UAE women leaders more optimistic about revenue growth and digitalization than global peers: KPMG Reports


The UAE’s female leaders are embracing digital, are motivated to make a positive impact on the world and optimistic about the growth of their business despite pandemic-related challenges. This, according to the third edition of KPMG’s UAE Female Leaders Outlook. The report examines economic and business outlooks, risks and opportunities, as well as career and gender diversity factors; highlighting notable differences with global findings and comparisons with the previous edition of the UAE report.

Marketa Simkova, Partner, Head of People & Change at KPMG Lower Gulf, said: “Even as governments and organizations swiftly adopted measures to tackle the pandemic, it brought profound personal and professional changes for a disproportionate number of women in the workforce. However, our 2020 survey has found UAE female leaders less pessimistic about Covid-19’s impact. In fact, some female leaders believe the crisis may unlock new growth opportunities from advances in technology and changed stakeholder expectations.”

Embracing Covid-19-related changes
Today’s leaders face a multitude of obstacles, stemming in large part from the current pandemic. A large-scale shift to remote work, changes in stakeholder expectations and the increased importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, among many others. Operational risk, followed by disruptive technologies and talent risk, will likely remain key concerns for the near term. However, 67% of UAE women leaders believe their company has potential to grow in the next three years.

KPMG findings indicate more than half (55%) of UAE female leaders found their pre-Covid-19 business models enabled the shift to and/or focus on digital. Further highlighting the importance of digitalization, nearly all of them (95%) are confident that digital economy and e-commerce companies will emerge winners from the current crisis.

Three out of ten (28%) UAE female leaders believe combating climate change will be of even greater importance in the post-Covid-19 era, according to the KPMG report. Implying a long-term commitment, nine out of ten (89% in UAE, 57% globally) want to lock in sustainability and climate change gains made as a result of the crisis. Three-quarters (73%) of female leaders in the UAE ranked ‘making a positive impact on the world’ as one of the top three factors motivating them, compared with 57% globally. This was followed closely by ‘enabling long-term business success.’

A diversified agenda
Despite clear progress and strong support from the government, nearly all UAE female leaders (95%) indicate there is more to be done to build gender diversity on boards and at management level. Almost two-thirds (61% in UAE, 43% globally) indicated that targets or quotas may be an effective approach. Regarding discrimination and racism, nearly two thirds (61%) of UAE female leaders (41% globally) believe recent measures taken by their company have had a positive impact; 78% expect recent progress will not be affected by Covid-19.

On the gender pay gap, UAE figures show a significant and positive change compared with last year. In 2020, six out of ten UAE-based female leaders (61%, 46% globally) confirmed their company is transparent regarding equal pay, compared with only 26% in 2019. Despite the pandemic’s socio-economic impact, four out of ten female leaders in the UAE (44%) do not believe Covid-19 will have an impact on their career. This is aligned with KPMG’s global findings.

Maryam Zaman, Partner, Head of Corporate Governance at KPMG Lower Gulf, concluded: “Our survey shows that for UAE women leaders, making a positive impact on the world is both a personal and commercial imperative. In line with the renewed focus on ESG policies, employees are most motivated by a meaningful and purposeful work environment. Companies looking to retain and attract talent, will have to compete in this digitalized and dynamic environment, while meeting fundamentally changing values and priorities.”

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