Last month I addressed the issue of what is holding women back in leadership roles for the MENAT region (Middle East, North Africa and Turkey). Based on the discussions in one of our recent HR network think tanks, it was clear that there are still many barriers faced by females in the area when it comes to getting into senior roles. But encouragingly there is a recognition of the need to address this. In research carried out in the lead up to the event we found that every interviewee we spoke to recognised that women in leadership is an important issue to tackle.

As business professionals in MENAT begin to move towards increased leadership diversity, HR professionals need the tools to be able to meet this rising expectation. But how do you build the business case for women in leadership?

I’ve heard several different approaches to this discussed in the HR community. In the recent Ochre House think tank mentioned earlier, GE Energy outlined that for them it was not just about overcoming the general barriers, but also fairness and values. It was important to be clear and decisive and to engage with anyone who is not adhering to the company’s values. For organisations such as PepsiCo the business case is quite simply customer centric; 70% of Pepsi buyers are women and the workforce and leadership community need to reflect this.

Obviously then the business case will vary dependent on the organisation. However there are four basic approaches which I would highly recommend any HR professional considers:

  • Senior leader sponsorship: Diversity goals need to be linked to operations and should be led by senior managers. These leaders need to be educated about diversity and held accountable to ensure these goals are met and targets are cascaded down through the organisation.
  • Talent development and performance: In order to create more opportunities for women and grow their confidence, mentoring and coaching between both men and women should be put into practice. Ensuring a wide recognition of what good leadership looks like and guaranteeing progression is based on meritocracy, and not gender, is also vital.
  • Working policy and practice: Consistent policies need to be implemented across the region which incorporate flexible and fair working practices.
  • External solutions: Looking at opportunities outside the company is also important. For example, there may be sponsorship opportunities with educational establishments to develop the local female talent pipeline.

The above considerations will help HR professionals in the region take the first steps towards tackling the problem of getting women into leadership roles. However, we also need to make sure any progression continues by measuring and monitoring any developments. In order to meet this necessity, we developed a score card to measure success in the think tank:

  1. Hard KPI’s
    • Gender  numbers
    • Nationalisation / Localisation


  1. Soft KPI’s
    • Cultural inclusiveness scorecard
    • Leadership behaviour via 360 feed-back
    • Manager quality (via gallup approach)


  1. External benchmarking – applying an external lens to the key performance indicators.

This is only the first phase of tackling this issue in the region, but whatever the challenges may be moving forward, women in leadership is clearly an imperative in the region.

Check back next month for more on the future of women in leadership in the MENAT region.





Helena Parry is the Director of Market Development at Ochre House and responsible for the company reputation and for driving HR & Talent Management insight and best practice to Ochre House customers and to the Ochre House Global HR Directors Network. With over 12 years experience in resourcing and talent management she is passionate about driving business value and competitive advantage through the talent agenda.