Professor Beatrix Dart heads up the Initiative for Women in Business at U of T's Rotman School of Management

U of T launches leadership excellence programme for United Arab Emirate female executives

From emotional intelligence to leading in changing times

While two Ontario community colleges are under fire for operating male-only campuses in Saudi Arabia, the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management is about to offer a leadership excellence programme for female executives from one of Saudi Arabia’s next-door neighbours, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The week-long course starts May 30 at U of T and is offered jointly with the American University in Dubai (AUD).

The course aims to “empower senior level women executives with the skills and self-development to take their careers further.” U of T News talked to Professor Beatrix Dart, Rotman’s executive director, Initiative for Women in Business, about the programme.

How did the leadership excellence programme for UAE female executives come about? 

We have long-standing relationships with the American University in Dubai, as the Provost, Jihad Nader, received his PhD in finance from the University of Toronto, and I have been personally in touch with him for many years. AUD has been the host for our global executive MBA program module in the Middle East for the last couple of years, and that has allowed us to have regular conversations and discussions. Dr. Nader has followed the development of the Rotman initiative for women in business professional development program closely over the last eight years. We felt it was the right time to create a joint program to allow UAE female executive access to developing their own leadership qualities.

The programme is a collaboration between AUD and Rotman School. What does each institution contribute? 
We both bring in our expertise: from Rotman’s side the many years of experience of developing women-specific programs, and from AUD, the cultural context, understanding the UAE societal norms and business environment, and jointly a commitment to offer programs that meet the professional development needs of executive women in the UAE.

What will the participants learn in the programme? 
The focus is on leadership development and strategic decision-making as a leader. Topics range from emotional intelligence to negotiations for women to leading in changing times. It will be rounded out by site visits, networking opportunities, and various guest speakers. 

How will participants be chosen?
Interested women need to submit an application, and will be chosen based on work experience, previous education and their motivation for attending the program.

Are there many female executives in the UAE? 
The UAE government has made considerable efforts to support the advancement of Emirati women and some of them hold prominent positions in key government agencies, diplomatic corps and business. from my visits I can tell you that I have met women in all roles, from CEO to entrepreneur, and that Dubai seems to be promoting women quite well.

Are there any particular country-specific considerations that you will have to take into account?
The joint program will have to be culturally sensitive, which is why we work with a local partner school that helps us understand the differences and ensure we are not making stereotypical assumptions. As this will be our first offering, we are going up the learning curve ourselves.

Why are programmes like this important?
There is plenty of research evidence available that gender diversity is good for the bottom line. However, women still show as a small percentage in senior roles in many companies, and when you look at it by country, there are still many places where gender equality is far from given. Empowering women to pro-actively to seek leadership roles are an important step of overcoming biases and stereotypes, as is of course educating men on how to support women to achieve this goal. 

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