Dr. Sandra Baroudi is an expert in leadership and management in Education, an international journals reviewer, lecturer, trainer, and research consultant, with extensive experience in academia in the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Baroudi holds a Ph.D. in Leadership, Management, and Policy in Education from the British University in Dubai, UAE. She is an Assistant Professor at the College of Interdisciplinary Studies- Zayed University, Dubai, UAE. She is the co-founder of Eduvate, an online professional development platform for teachers and educational leaders. Dr. Baroudi is a highly skilled trainer and curriculum designer in the field of leadership and policies and teaching and learning. She is a certified associate for the Blackboard Academy and a Fellow for Advanced Higher Education. She was a fellow for the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK and Queen Rania Foundation in Jordan where she led the contextualization of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit into the Arab world context. In her work, Dr. Baroudi seeks to provide evidence-based data and best practices for leaders and educators in the Arab world with the aim of supporting their decisions to promote innovative and quality education.
This article sheds the light on female leadership topics in the Arab world context and particularly among higher education students. Literature to date has shown the relationship between female students’ leadership skills and their self-growth, well-being, and self-awareness. More importantly, this relationship positively impacted their academic performance and nurtured in them their career-related skills. These skills include and are not limited to goal setting, time management, decision-making, flexibility, and adaptability. These are the sustainable skills that every leader looks for when recruiting new employees to his/her company as they are proven to be positively correlated with employees’ job performance and effectiveness. Hence, if these skills are not nurtured or promoted in students, these latter will eventually fail in their future professions. Even at the personal level, these skills are at the core of their success as students who have these skills are more independent and have greater self-control than others.
Many policies were developed in many Arab countries towards the development of female leadership in order to encourage females to take on leadership roles and promote gender equality. However, in many Arab contexts, the market still falls short of proving or demonstrating gender equality especially when it comes to providing females with equal income to their male counterparts who are occupying the same job. Not only that but Arab females are not motivated in joining the job market as the Arab culture and beliefs shape their mindsets into the nurturing role of women and their role to up bring their children and fulfill their role as a wife and a mother at the expense of others. Luckily and for the past decade, studies have revealed that there has been a marginal increase in women’s employment rates and that females have slowly started advancement into fulfilling senior positions. Anecdotal evidence also showed that females are able to better balance between jobs and families in order to become more independent and contribute to the economy of the country.
To that extent, findings of empirical studies proposed for higher education institutions to develop peer mentoring programs where female students have the opportunities to mentor other students and practice similar like career skills. Peer mentoring programs are widely spread in higher education, but little attention is given to their impact on mentors’ and mentees’ personal and psychosocial development. Furthermore, involving female students in leadership activities inside and outside the university and encouraging them to join clubs and organizations can help them gain practical experience in managing and leading a group. Additionally, through the partnership network that higher education institutions have, female students can work hand in hand with local companies and participate in solving real problems that these companies are facing. Providing female students with such opportunities will develop their problem-solving skills, innovation, and creativity skills, and teamwork skills and widen their professional network. On this note also, providing female students with guest speaker events, public speaking opportunities, participation in conferences locally and internationally, and alumni networking events will all help them build their professional network and connect with other female leaders who can inspire them. Creating debate programs within and across universities is vital as they enhance students’ communication and negotiation skills, boost their confidence, and increase their general knowledge. Furthermore, higher education institutions can plan for guest lecturing events or sessions to showcase successful female leaders as role models for students. This is also important as students will learn about challenges that they might face during their careers and how this leader overcame them. Also, offering training workshops that focus on building female students’ self-awareness, self-regulation, self-efficacy, self-confidence, and assertiveness is believed to be effective. In these workshops, female students will have the chance to assess their own leadership practices, reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, and learn how to improve these by working on hands-on activities to create goals, develop their leadership vision and strategy, and build effective leadership styles. Last but not least, encouraging females to enter the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields will increase their representation in those fields as they are currently dominated by males, and it will also help develop technical leadership skills and strategies for overcoming gender biases in STEM settings.
If higher education institutions were to contribute to building a sustainable future, it is then imperative to achieve gender equality as one of the sustainable development goals (SDG #5). Empowering females and offering them opportunities to practice leadership skills in various contexts, inside and outside the classroom, would motivate them to join leadership roles and participate in the decision-making process. Reducing the gap of equality between the two genders is important for promoting diversity and inclusion, social justice, economic growth, and better health and well-being. Gender equality and female empowerment will lead to a developed human capital where both genders have access to quality education that can result in a more educated, skilled, and capable workforce, which is essential for the overall development and progress of societies.