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How regional female entrepreneurs are paving the way for a gender-balanced future

How regional female entrepreneurs are paving the way for a gender-balanced future

Governments in the GCC have become increasingly supportive of women’s growing role in C-level positions in the public and private sectors

1. How has the GCC region progressed with regards to women leadership?
Over the years, the region has increasingly become home to a pool of ambitious and talented women who are keen to play a role in shaping their countries’ financial future. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait in particular have dedicated efforts to diversify their work force and help improve national aspirations in relation to meeting nationalisation, specialism and business diversification targets.

In addition, GCC women have traditionally held strong matriarchal roles, with some leading advisory roles in family businesses, which can provide GCC women with many opportunities in strategic wealth planning and management.

Moreover, new studies have revealed that women are not just getting wealthier in the region, but they are taking control and managing nearly $800bn in assets, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE being the key markets driving this growth. Moreover, women’s wealth is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 9 per cent over the next three years taking the figure past $1 trillion , making it higher than that of North America and Western Europe.

At Jersey Finance, we recognise this strong potential which is why we’ve strengthened our presence in the region and have witnessed the ever-growing number of female Jersey practitioners who have forged strong ties with female clients in the kingdom.

2. What are the intrinsic challenges that women face in terms of financial inclusion and managing their wealth?
Women, as part of family businesses in the GCC, are highly impacted by incidents that affect the family structure or business strategy. Their concerns, therefore, tend to focus on succession planning, impact investment, voting rights, divorce and governance, to ensure the sustainable development of the business and private family wealth. They also seek to identify and consolidate their role within these evolving structures.

On a more individual level, female entrepreneurs continue to face a range of barriers with regard to financial inclusion, from restrictive legislation to lack of collateral. In the region, social norms have also played a role constraining women’s demand for financial services as women often feel discouraged from seeking financial independence. As such, female entrepreneurs have diverted funds from their own businesses to businesses run by the men in their households.

As a result, providers are discouraged from catering to the needs of their female clients due to the generally lower volume of women coming in as well as lower margins. These factors also add up to the existing gender financial inclusion gap in the region and beyond, and as such has hindered women’s interaction with financial practitioners.

3. How empowered are women across the region in terms of mapping out their financial future?
We have witnessed an increased appetite for women taking charge of their financial affairs in key markets in the region – with Saudi Arabia being a leading market in this space. Our events in Women in Wealth Management Series in Saudi Arabia uncovered the high number of Saudi women who were adamant on taking charge of their financial future. Testament to the positive response and high level of engagement that we received from these female attendees, we decided to run another event to further strengthen our bond with these ambitious women and help them nurture their growth-journey to financial inclusion.

Beyond that, we have also seen how governments in the GCC region have become increasingly supportive of women’s growing role in C-level positions in the public and private sectors alike, as board members and as active economic contributors to society. By creating a gender inclusive workforce and exposing women to these senior positions, we expect more women to take full charge of their financial future.

4. What role can regional institutions play in bridging the gap?
Jersey has capitalised on the opportunity to create a more inclusive financial environment in the region and as such, dedicated its efforts to providing women across the GCC with access to expert-led knowledge and tools to effectively navigate the financial landscape. For example, through our Women in Wealth Management Series, Jersey Finance was able to successfully roll out a knowledge-exchange platform across key markets in the region to empower women with the resources to pursue their financial aspirations.

An Kelles is the director of GCC at Jersey Finance and Gulf Business

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