Women hold 10.8% of board seats in listed UAE firms: report
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Women now hold 10.8% of board seats in listed UAE firms, reveals report

Women now hold 10.8% of board seats in listed UAE firms, reveals report

The report showed that while the UAE leads the region with women holding board seats, the overall picture for the GCC is less rosy

Neesha Salian
women occupy 10.8 per cent of board seats in listed UAE firms shows report -hr-GettyImages-1398963973

A new report revealed both positive strides and significant challenges for women seeking board seats in publicly traded companies across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The GCC Board Gender Index Report 2024, a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and Aurora50, offers a comprehensive data set on this critical issue.

Provost and vice principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Professor Dame Heather McGregor, said, “As someone who has conducted academic research into gender balance on public company boards for several years, I was keen to continue this work in the GCC region.

“When I moved to the UAE in 2022, I noticed the absence of a single authoritative and accessible source of data.  I am pleased to have, with Aurora50, developed a comprehensive baseline from which I and other scholars and interested parties can measure – and celebrate – future progress.”

Commenting on the launch of the report, Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, co-founder – Aurora50, said: “We are excited to present an authoritative GCC-wide benchmark that charts the growing diversity of listed company boards in the region. A diverse board helps create a diverse, inclusive organisation: diversity creates an impact for the organisation, industry and society.

“With such transparent data now available, the need for a pipeline of female talent, from managers to senior leaders to board directors, becomes increasingly clear.”

The GCC Board Gender Index Report 2024 revealed…

… that when it comes to the UAE (as of January), of the 168 companies listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and Dubai Financial Market, 133 out of 1,231 of the board seats were held by women.

The report showed that while the UAE leads the region with women holding 10.8 per cent of board seats, the overall picture for the GCC is less rosy.

Across the six member states, only 5.2 per cent of board seats (the 5,591 board seats in 752 publicly listed companies) are occupied by women. Other GCC countries lag behind the UAE, with Qatar holding the lowest percentage at a mere 1.8 per cent.

The percentage of board positions held by women at publicly listed companies across the other GCC states is:

  • Oman: 8 per cent (45 of 783 seats)
  • Bahrain: 5.5 per cent (20 of 363 seats)
  • Kuwait: 5.0 per cent (48 of 963 seats)
  • Saudi Arabia: 2 per cent (36 of 1,811 seats)

The report also emphasises the importance of transparency. By providing a centralised and accessible data source, the report will allow for a better understanding of board composition and facilitate comparisons across companies and countries.

This transparency is expected to drive further progress towards gender balance.

The report also serves as a call to action for stakeholders across the GCC. From government bodies to academic institutions and businesses, a collective effort is needed to increase the pipeline of qualified women for leadership roles.

Securities and Commodities Authority’s CEO Dr Maryam Butti Al Suwaidi, said “The publication of the annual list of companies quoted on GCC exchanges and their directors is not only innovative but also incredibly valuable. Consolidating this publicly available information into a single accessible resource will facilitate greater transparency and understanding of board composition within the region.

“Such consistent visibility will certainly contribute to raising awareness about, and promoting the benefits of, gender diversity in the GCC region, and increasing participation of women in senior roles across the GCC.”

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