Mentoring Highlighted as Key Driver in Gender Parity and Career Success in Middle East


REACH, the first non-profit organization dedicated to structured mentoring and leadership development for women professionals in the Middle East, enjoyed a high level introduction in Abu Dhabi last week when the Australian Business Group included REACH representatives in a panel discussion on the role mentoring plays in progressing gender parity and career success.

With the UAE a leading demonstration in the region for gender parity – women hold 66 percent of government positions, manage approximately 25,000 economic and commercial enterprises worth an estimated $12.26 billion, and hold several public offices, including the recent appointment of five female ministers to the UAE Cabinet – there is still the need for greater diversity on boards and in corporate and private sectors.

H.E. Arthur Spyrou, Australian Ambassador to the UAE, joining Laudy Lahdo, REACH board member and General Manager for Servcorp, Ellecia Saffron, Managing Director and Founder of Maysaffron and Chairman Australian Business Group Abu Dhabi, and Wissam Moukahal, Executive Director Macquarie Capital Middle East on the panel, encouraged men to take a more active role and women to hold the companies they work for accountable.

Studies by organizations - from the European Commission to McKinsey &Co., Forbes and many other institutions around the world - have highlighted the real bottom line benefits of gender parity. According to Ellecia Saffron, who also recently authored an academic paper on the topic, “In business, and particularly in decision making and strategic teams, diversity renders more thorough decision making and ultimately better financial performance. Companies need to recognise that there is fiscal benefit in supporting the career goals of their female employees.”

Confirming the requirement for increased investment in gender parity, Wissam Moukahal highlighted that “this investment goes beyond simple numbers – a company that invests in its people is actually investing in the overall culture of the business.”

Agreement was unanimous on the role and value of mentorship in helping to bridge the gender gap, fostering an inclusive working environment and increasing career progression. The contribution by REACH in matching women professionals with mentors across all sectors continues to grow – the organization which is now in its third year has facilitated more than 100 active mentorship relationships.

As a board member of REACH, Laudy Lahdo explained: “The gender divide is a reality, and is exacerbated by a number of factors including the ‘confidence gap’ – one of the most prevalent issues for women in their careers. The benefits of mentoring are far-reaching in helping to develop confidence, progress careers and deliver long term impact – interestingly, for both mentees and mentors!”

This was confirmed by Wissam Moukahal who is a loyal supporter of REACH: “I have personally witnessed the incredible impact that REACH has had on women’s lives in helping them to confront challenges within their organizations, develop a healthier sense of self-belief and learning to step forward to make themselves more visible. The rewards are mutually beneficial – mentors learn from their mentees too.”

Laudy Lahdo agreed: “REACH seeks to inspire women to do more by challenging them to break through stereotypes. It also provides a platform for successful men and women to share their knowledge, expertise and experience to support and inspire those who need it the most. This is how, together, we can help to facilitate gender parity in business.”

As Chairman of the Australian Business Group Abu Dhabi, Ellecia Saffron said: “The UAE leadership has been clear that gender parity is important for the country to grow and innovate. It is a progressive goal, and one that the Australian Business community entirely supports. Engaging in the conversation through this panel discussion and introducing an initiative like REACH in Abu Dhabi enables us to help build the foundations for progress.”