Traditionally, the roles of men and women were predefined, and so were the expectations. This was especially true within the Middle East, where the man was responsible for the financial security of his family and the woman was the homemaker whose life more or less revolved around her husband and children. However, the world is ever changing, and gender-related responsibilities are no longer clear-cut.

We live in a day and age where seeing women leaders in the workforce has become the norm, yet debates surrounding this topic are never ending. We often hear about activism for wage equality, or striving to break “glass ceilings” in support of the possibility of the first female President in the United States, or everyday career women trying to balance between their family responsibilities and job expectations. Considering the circumstances, women constantly feel the need to step up, trying to prove to themselves and to the world that they can learn, grow, and be inspiring role models to others.

Throughout my years at Deloitte, as I transitioned from a team member to a managerial role, I realized that leadership cannot be defined by a certain title or a specific gender. Leaders are the ones who continuously take initiative, trust their gut, take accountability, and inspire others. Empowering organizations such as Deloitte realize that inspirational people come from different walks of life, and acknowledge that women are great contributors to the workforce.

Women bring a new perspective, simply because life trains them to deal with people of different ages under very challenging circumstances, all at the same time. These experiences teach women how to be effective under pressure, allowing them to share refreshing outlooks to any business with their strong communication, negotiating and analytical skills. It is unfortunate that many female talents go unnoticed, many times due to the difficulty of securing a work/life balance. If a woman does not have a good support system, priorities will usually gear her to sacrifice her career so she can fulfil her motherly commitments, but her sense of professional accomplishment will fall short. The current reality is that the career ladder will not wait for her, and this in turn can deprive companies from optimizing the roles of female contributors.

Just as the world has evolved, organizations must advance- in order to provide the right environment for women whereby they are not put in a situation to choose between achieving their professional goals and properly raising the children of tomorrow. Deloitte plays a big role towards my personal and professional development by allowing me to work around the facts of life. The firm has helped me unlock my strengths and overcome my weaknesses. Having young children of my own, I would not have been able grow in the corporate world had I not been fortunate to be part of a workplace that trusts in my professional capabilities yet understands the importance of my role as a parent.

However, there is always room to provide additional support. As a female leader within Deloitte I suggest we constantly conduct research sessions and focus groups with female employees to understand their concerns and challenges – which may be personal, professional, or even cultural impediments. From flexibility and support for future and new parents to career counselling and mentoring, women leaders with diverse paths and experiences successfully placed within Deloitte will play as role models for other females and will aspire them as they can also sustain and succeed. Mentoring and ongoing support is essential to the career advancement of women within Deloitte. Deloitte has introduced a mentoring program and I can suggest we roll a tailored version whereby we proactively communicate to females allowing them to regularly seek the advice and get the support system they require. We have a variety of strong global and local networks and accordingly we can provide valuable opportunities for growth, building relationships and interacting with role models and mentors.

Women are diligent forces of nature who are making a strong presence in the corporate world, and companies have a pivotal role in their advancement. Deloitte acknowledges the instrumental role of the female workforce, organizations must realize that there is room for improvement to provide a healthier environment for women so that she can give more, both to her career and her family.

by: Dina Fakih, Senior Manager, Risk Advisory, Deloitte, Middle East

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