Boosting women in Gulf boardrooms

Using quotas to force Gulf companies to fill a percentage of their board seats with women will not solve the region’s gender imbalance, Dr Nasser Saidi said.

Despite women occupying only 1.5 percent of the Gulf’s 4,254 board seats, using quota policies similar to those seen under Emiratisation to push up numbers would fail, Saidi said.

“Quotas should not be thought of as major instruments. They deal with the symptoms, but they do not deal with the causes. I think it’s more important that we deal with the causes, rather than the symptoms,” Saidi, chief economist Dubai International Financial Authority, told Arabian Business.

In the UAE, women hold 1.5 percent of the top jobs. In Oman and Kuwait, the best-performing Gulf states, the figure is 2.3 percent and 2.7 percent respectively.  The figures reflect a wasted economic resource, Saidi said, and a business culture that favours sharing top jobs among a small group of participants.

“We need to remove barriers to the participation of women in the labour force. It’s part of the role of the government to create awareness of these issues. Just like in good corporate governance, the tone is set at the top,” he said.

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