As ESCA announced its mandate for all UAE listed companies to put one woman on their board, Aurora50 co-founder Diana Wilde spoke to Bloomberg’s Manus Cranny on Bloomberg Daybreak: Middle East to discuss gender parity in the GCC and why there is a “business need” for the quota, as gender parity would add $101 billion to the UAE economy.
“It is going to become the case that if the boards aren’t balanced you will be at a competitive disadvantage,” Ms Wilde warned.
She told Bloomberg the quota would make a “dramatic change” to the UAE, starting at a fairly low low base of 3.5 percent of public companies having a woman on board, compared to 33 percent in the UK or a woman on every board on the S&P index in the US.
Two-thirds of companies on the UAE’s listed boards come from banking and insurance, she said but, looking at the wider economy, corporate companies like ADNOC and Mubadala have been “working hard at this for a long time”.
“You can’t make these [UAE board] changes any quicker than the appointments are available.” Diana Wilde, Aurora50 co-founder
There is a “long pipeline” of “very competent” women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), she added. But with 70 percent of boards being all-male, and using their own networks – mostly men – to find nominations for new board members, it is important to connect boards with the pipeline of female talent that is being developed. Accelerator programmes like Aurora50’s Pathway20 can accelerate women’s board careers by providing board-ready women with mentorship and allow them to debate board-level issues, Ms Wilde said.
Of the 110 companies listed in the UAE, only 28 currently have women holding board seats. “Realistically, though, you can’t make these changes any quicker than the appointments are available, so this is going to take a bit of time,” she said. Progress should also be reviewed across the whole economy, from government to the private sector, rather than only in listed companies. “If we just focus on those numbers we’re not really focusing on the true picture,” Ms Wilde told Bloomberg.