The lack of female leaders will hurt GCC construction
Inducting more women to the workforce has clear benefits for organisations in all sectors and countries, but are the Gulf’s construction leaders ready to do more?
Preparing the Top 50 GCC Developers list is rarely an easy task. The majority of the Gulf’s development firms are led by highly qualified individuals that are each, in their own way, contributing to a regional property market that consistently seeks to push the envelope in terms of project functionality and viability, and design ingenuity.
However, this ranking sheds light on not only the achievements of the Gulf’s development sector, but its shortcomings as well. As such, I have found that the most consistent limitation in the region’s real estate – and indeed, wider construction sector – continues to be a shortage of women in decision-making roles.
Only one woman features in the Top 50 GCC Developers 2017 list – a figure that is unchanged from the ranking’s 2016 edition. Meanwhile, only two women were part of the Construction Week: Power 100 2017 ranking, published this June (Construction Week #661). One may argue that these lists do not represent the thousands of small- or medium-sized construction outfits that operate around the Gulf. Nevertheless, that the rankings accurately capture the dearth of female leaders at the helm of the GCC’s largest and most high-profile construction firms is indisputable.
I understand that finding skilled construction employees is a challenge throughout the Gulf – regardless of the talent pool’s gender mix or experience level – and efforts to harness the best talent must equally target both genders. However, if the construction industry is ready to spend millions on new technologies and tools – in the name of innovation and long-term growth – then why isn’t more being done to shake up the traditional models of organisational diversity?
Michel Landel, the chief executive officer of international food service and facilities management giant, Sodexo, told Forbes this January that his company’s pursuit of gender equity is driven by the “competitive advantage” of having women in decision-making positions.
He added: “All the women currently on my executive committee are in [profit-and-loss] roles, and [...] their input in key decisions forces us to look at things differently and get to sharper, stronger outcomes.”
What’s more, the talent pool is rapidly attracting more women throughout the Gulf. Speaking at this year’s Construction Week: Leaders in Construction UAE Summit, Emma Seymour, human resources director at Al Naboodah Construction Group, said that a growing number of Emirati women are starting to enter the market, adding: “They’re desperate to work and engage in the workforce, and are highly educated. We as contractors and industry leaders should be focussing on these individuals, because [they] will have a significant impact on the market going forward.”
Seymour’s and Landel’s views highlight why companies cannot afford to keep women out of the workforce for any longer than they already have. For the Gulf’s construction sector – one that is often faced with challenges related to funding and modernisation – a small change in recruitment policies may well lead to long-term growth.