Posted on May 04, 2015

Improving the levels of female representation in the Arabian Gulf’s petrochemicals and chemicals (P&C) sector can advance the industry, according to a new report published today by the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) and Accenture.

The report, “Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Women in Supply Chain,” found that the sector needs to do more to bring women into the workforce and support their career progression if it is to benefit from gender diversity, which can help boost company performance and employee retention rates. While women now account for up to one-third of the supply chain workforce in some P&C companies, the majority of these companies have limited female representation in these functions, especially in leadership positions.

Companies in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are more open to employing women in supply chain roles, while Bahrain and Oman have a comparatively lower perception as to their ability to recruit women in these roles. In Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the report found substantial variations between companies in the degree to which they find it difficult to employ women in supply chain. This variation was most pronounced in Saudi Arabia, where a combination of the prevailing culture and practices, as well as the geographic location of some supply chain functions, were believed to be the reason.

However, there are other challenges to hiring women in supply chain roles. The report found that more than half of the women in the region do not have access to supply chain engineering degrees in their home country, thereby limiting their ability to gain suitable qualifications in this discipline.

GCC petrochemical and chemical 1 [].jpgAccording to the report, there are a number of clear benefits for companies that have a higher number of women in their workforce. For example, companies with women in leadership roles tend to outperform those without and, specifically in supply chain, women perform better than men when placed in customer-facing roles. Customer service was repeatedly mentioned as an area with the greatest potential for increasing female employment in the short to medium term. Currently, the customer service area has the highest proportion of women employees, including the highest number in leadership positions. 

Additionally, in a survey of 28 P&C companies across the GCC conducted as part of the report, more than 55 percent of respondents said that turnover among female employees is lower than among their male counterparts. This suggests that companies with more women can also benefit from savings on recruitment and personnel management.

“With women in the Arabian Gulf joining the workforce in greater numbers than ever before, gender parity in the workplace is now becoming a reality, rather than a novelty,” said Dr. Abdulwahab Al Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA. “Realizing the full potential of women in the supply chain is essential for the region’s P&C companies, especially as the industry evolves and diversifies. It is up to the industry to make the supply chain an attractive career choice for women.”

Omar Boulos, regional managing director for Accenture Middle East, said, “As the petrochemicals and chemicals industry grows in size, capacity and sophistication, populating the sector with the right people and skills has become an increasingly complex exercise. As our research demonstrates, women are still underrepresented, especially in top-level positions. To change this pattern we need industry-wide collaboration that provides education, internships and training opportunities, involving public and private sector stakeholders, to attract and develop skills for the region’s brightest women.”

Marking the third collaboration between the GPCA and Accenture, the GCC Women in Supply Chain report was released during the seventh GPCA Supply Chain conference in Dubai. For more information, please visit

This purpose of the study, developed in partnership between the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) and Accenture, was to understand the challenges related to female participation in the supply chain functions of GCC P&C companies and define the actions required to increase the use of women within the region’s workforce. The research undertaken for this study included a survey of 28 GCC P&A companies accounting for more than 80 percent of GPCA’s member companies. The survey was supported by in-depth interviews conducted with representatives of eight companies, including members from all GCC countries.