Middle East favors younger, but also more experienced CEOs

29 August 2023 Consultancy-me.com 2 min. read
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Organizations in the Middle East have the youngest executive leaders worldwide, with the average age of CEOs appointed last year being 54.3 years old, as compared with the global average of 56.5.

Among all Middle Eastern countries, the UAE has the youngest CEOs, with an average age of 53.1 years. The Middle East also stands out as having the highest percentage of CEOs with cross-border experience. That is according to new research from human capital consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles, which examined CEO roles around the world.

While organizations in the Middle East do indeed prefer young blood, they also look for experienced candidates to fill their top roles. The study found that 89% of CEOs in the Middle East had previous C-suite experience, a higher rate than other regions.

Middle East favors younger, but also more experienced CEOs

“As the Middle East works towards economic diversification amidst the volatile and fast-paced global landscape, companies in the region are leaning towards hiring more experienced CEOs with prior C-suite experience and cross-border experience,” said Maliha Jilani, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles.

SMEs are a big part of the GCC economies, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and they continue to be on the rise. With a growing stock of young professionals getting their start in smaller businesses, it is no wonder how Middle Eastern CEOs are more experienced at a younger age than in other regions.

While the top executives in Middle Eastern organizations may be younger (on average), diversity in other areas is lagging significantly. For example, only 3% of organizations in the Middle East have female CEOs, which, along with Latin America at a mere 2%, is among the lowest in the world.

Middle East favors younger, but also more experienced CEOs

On a global scale, the report found that “the newer cohorts of CEOs, those appointed over the past three years, are bringing more diversity and fresh perspectives into the role and shifting the needle on the overall profile of the CEOs.”

And while 78% of CEOs in North America were appointed internally, that contrasts with only 56% in the Middle East, an indication that Middle Eastern organizations might tend to look further afield for the right candidates.

Several of the business leaders on Forbes’ latest 30 Under 30 ranking were Middle Eastern. Those included 20-year-old Hadia Ghaleb, a popular Egyptian influencer and swimsuit company CEO based in the UAE; 25-year-old Mohsin Hani Al-Bahrani, CEO of Omani industrial company ACERE; along with several other young and talented Middle Eastern scientists, athletes, and artists.