Leveraging an untapped talent pool

How to advance women's role in GCC family businesses

Published: 04.12.2014
by Fadi Majdalani, Ramy Sfeir, Patrick Nader, Dr. Basmah M. Omair

The belief and support of the founder of a family business, or its director, in the role of women and the importance of their participation are crucial factors enabling women to obtain seats on the company’s board of directors. All that the founder invests as moral or practical support — from providing education and appropriate training, to offering opportunities to gain work experience, to maintaining their decision making process — is reflected in building an individual daughter or sister’s personality and in establishing a business culture and community environment inside and outside the company. This, in turn, will affect the company’s productivity and sustainability and, consequently, national economic development.

International research has demonstrated that companies which involve women in their boards of directors and in decision making have achieved a high level of productivity compared to other companies. Involving women in decision making has created new dimensions which embody the economic integration between men and women.

Despite the fact that there are several important factors which reduce the participation of women, there are nevertheless positive social changes occurring in the Gulf region today helping them reach leadership positions. These positive changes include an increase in educational opportunities, foreign scholarships for female citizens in various fields, and state policies supporting the increase of women’s participation in national economic development.

All these changes are making a contribution by equipping women with the ability to participate as active members on boards of directors and to develop family businesses. This is particularly important as family businesses represent an integral part of the Gulf region’s job market.

The participation of women in family businesses may contribute to opening up new opportunities for women’s employment in different areas within the company. Such changes on their own will contribute to raising the income of both the individual and the family — and by extension the community.

Al Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center collaborated with Strategy& to conduct this study by interviewing first, second, and third generations of the region’s leading family companies to get a closer look at what is occurring inside companies and to learn more about the actual role of women in family businesses in the Gulf countries. The goal is to identify the effectiveness of women’s participation, the obstacles they may encounter, and the means of removing these hindrances, so that women can achieve sustainable participation.


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