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Women Rising: Why We Need More Women At The Top "The best thing women can do is not to give up or get discouraged. Little by little, things are changing, and we are all a part of that change."

By Anna Skigin

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When International Women's Day (IWD) comes around each year on March 8th, it's a time for us all to reflect on how far we have come, and what still needs to be done to accelerate gender equality.

This year, the campaign theme for IWD is "Inspire Inclusion," which is one that is close to my heart. It essentially means that when we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment that comes with it.

In my experience, as soon as you put more women into powerful positions in business, it has a domino effect. Women lead by example, and when we see a strong female CEO or founder doing her thing, it makes us feel inspired to do it too.

In early 2023, it was revealed that women now lead more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies, including one company in the top 10. This may seem like a small stride, but compared to years gone by, this is progress indeed.

I have seen firsthand how much of an impact can be made when more women are in the boardroom, but getting that seat at the table isn't always easy. In the MENA region, there is still perceived to be a big equality gap, but this is changing, especially in the real estate and tourism business.

It's no secret that when people think of the Middle East, they see it as being incredibly male-dominated, and it is assumed that women don't have a voice. But, as a female entrepreneur who set up my business in the UAE in 2017, I have seen huge strides being made towards a much more level playing field.

Entrepreneurship and creativity are encouraged, and, luckily, women are treated with just as much clout as men when it comes to being backed by the government. I felt hugely supported by the UAE since I started out, and things just keep improving as we go along.

Even in regions such as Saudi Arabia, there are opportunities being created for women across all sectors including in leadership roles and entrepreneurship through Vision 2030.

Related: On An Upward Trajectory: Women in Saudi Arabia's Venture Capital Ecosystem

WHY WE NEED MORE WOMEN IN THE BOARDROOM

According to Forbes, female founders tend to build businesses that generate more revenues, create higher job growth, dream bigger, and execute better. Why? I believe there are certain characteristics which make women great business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Of course, it is all down to the individual, but women do generally have more empathy and emotional intelligence, which are highly sought-after attributes.

Lots of women I've met are also good listeners, and they take their time to understand a problem before diving in. Not only that, they are just as ambitious as their male counterparts, and make great collaborators.

But it's not all plain sailing though. Being taken seriously is one of the biggest challenges that I have faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry. I believe women need to fight for their respect, while men automatically get it by walking into a room. We have to spend more time proving ourselves, whereas male competence is taken on face value. It's these kinds of contradictions that still need to be worked on.

The best thing women can do is not to give up or get discouraged. Little by little, things are changing, and we are all a part of that change.

For young female professionals, if you want to be heard in meetings, you need to be vocal and present. Also, understand that the problem isn't with you, and that you do have the power to do bring about change.

In addition, I strongly believe in female mentorship, and I wish I'd had more of it in my life. Women need to help other women, especially considering there are so few of us in leadership positions. Female mentorship helps to feel encouraged and supported, and it allows us to make mistakes as we climb to top positions. I try to be a mentor for many of my female employees at Frank Porter. I put women into positions of power, and I believe we benefit from having them in the room.

I also believe it is so important to connect with women who are going through the same journey as you. Groups such as the Dubai Women Business Council are doing so much in this arena. This particular group dedicates its efforts to enhancing gender parity in society, encouraging women to play an active role in building the country, and stimulating sustainable development.

When women are supported and treated as equals, amazing things can -and will- happen.

Related: Here's What The F&B Industry Can Do To Support (And Encourage) Its Female Entrepreneurs

Anna Skigin

Founder and CEO, Frank Porter

Anna Skigin is the founder and CEO of Frank Porter, a hassle-free Airbnb management company launched in Dubai in 2017. Frank Porter maximizes returns for the owners, by renting out properties short-term via platforms such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and their own Frank Porter booking site.

With a strong background in hospitality and extensive international experience, Anna understands quality and brings that to everything she does. An accomplished leader, she inspires a talented and international team, ensuring five-star guest experiences and higher returns for the hosts. With her extensive professional background, Anna is involved in every aspect of the business, from strategy to operations, and seeing that the Frank Porter standard is never compromised.

In the business of property management, there needs to be trust. Anna understands that inherently, having worked with international clients in all domains– from being a private banker in the prominent Rothschild group in Geneva, Switzerland, to client advisory at the world’s leading auction houses, Sotheby’s and Phillips, in London, UK. A serial entrepreneur at heart, Anna has previously successfully developed and launched an Italian new-style restaurant concept PANZO in London, from the ground up.

Anna has a good eye for styling and detail, having worked with and around art and design extensively throughout her life. Her creativity extends to all aspects of Frank Porter. With uncompromising dedication to quality and excellence, Anna aims to grow Frank Porter on an international scale. Anna is a dual Russian and Canadian national, having studied finance and economics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She has a master’s of art and design degree from Christie’s Education in London. Fluent in English, Russian, and French, Anna enjoys yoga, skiing, art, and literature.

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