Relevant studies concluded that women’s presence on a company’s boards of directors could bring benefits that include higher profits. But so far, women’s participation on board of directors are very limited in the Gulf region and the rest of the Arab countries.
“The fact is that women represent less than 1 per cent on board across GCC, even saying 2 per cent or 3 per cent is really optimistic, and we don’t have a culture that supports women to become board members,” the Dubai-based Al Sarayreh told . She says that many women are qualified to hold top positions in corporations and companies.
Hoda Abou-Jamra, Managing Partner of TVM Capital Partners, a health provider equity fund, said the more the diverse the board members of a company, the better is its performance.
An increasingly growing body of research supports the argument for greater diversity in leadership, suggesting that more women on the management floor and in the boardroom may equate to outperforming returns.
According to a study of 3,000 listed companies published in late 2014 by Credit Suisse, greater gender diversity in management correlates with better financial performance, superior return on equity and higher stock valuation.
TVM Capital Healthcare Partners has 980 employees, 55 per cent of whom are women and has more women on the board of its companies than any other private equity firm, according to the Annual Report for 2015.
Abou-Jamra is also the chairperson of the 30 per cent Club GCC Chapter. The 30 per cent Club was launched in UK in 2010 by a group of executives and board members advocating the goal of a achieving a minimum of 30 per cent women on FTSE-100 boards.
The percentage of women in executive positions varies in different regions.
In the US, 13.7 per cent of professionals at private equity firms in North America on average are women. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the number of women on the boards of publicly listed companies in the GCC region decreased from 60 seats — or 1.5 per cent of total board seats — in 2008, to only 43 in 2011, according to Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance.
In the UAE, the situation is not different, said Rayhanah Natangcop-Guinomla, CPA, executive MBA Alumni of Cass Business School in Dubai. She conducted a study last year and concluded that there are only three female members out of nearly 170 board members of 20 big companies listed in both Abu-Dhabi and Dubai stock markets.
The study was looking at the demographic and statuary diversity of companies.
“Women are an untapped resource — and we need to work together with current and future members to achieve better representation of women on boards,” said Abou Jamrah.