Women now hold 11 per cent of board seats in listed companies across the UAE, and five per cent across the GCC

Heriot-Watt University and Aurora50 launch the first annual GCC Board Gender Index Report 2024

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Dr Maryam Butti Al Suwaidi
Dr Maryam Butti Al Suwaidi

Published: Tue 30 Apr 2024, 4:50 PM

Heriot-Watt University and Aurora50 today published a detailed analysis of the current state of women's representation on the boards of publicly listed companies in the GCC. The report, entitled the ‘GCC Board Gender Index Report 2024’, is the only authoritative cross-GCC report of its kind, and represents the first time that a comprehensive data set has been published collating information from across the GCC. It seeks to form the baseline data from which future progress can be measured.

The data will be collected annually and published in April each year and will be made available as a searchable database later this year. This will enable future researchers to identify trends, challenges, and opportunities for increasing gender diversity in the boardroom, and to celebrate the region’s collective progress towards more inclusive and diverse corporate leadership.

Key findings from this report are as follows:

  • In January 2024, of the 168 companies listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) and Dubai Financial Market (DFM), 133 out of 1,231 (10.8 per cent) of board seats are held by women.
  • Across the GCC (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia), as of January 2024, women hold 5.2 per cent of the 5,591 board seats in 752 publicly listed companies.

Country-wise, the percentage of board positions held by women at publicly listed companies across the GCC is as follows:

  • UAE: 10.8% (133 of 1,231 seats)
  • Oman: 5.8% (45 of 783 seats)
  • Bahrain: 5.5% (20 of 363 seats)
  • Kuwait: 5.0% (48 of 963 seats)
  • Saudi Arabia: 2.0% (36 of 1,811 seats)
  • Qatar: 1.8% (8 of 440 seats)

Commenting on the launch of the GCC Board Gender Index 2024, Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, co-founder of Aurora50, said: "We are excited to present an authoritative GCC-wide benchmark that charts the growing diversity of listed company boards in the region. Our first initiative at Aurora50 was Pathway20, an accelerator for regional women board directors, and we still believe that progress in gender diversity starts at the top.

"A diverse board helps create a diverse, inclusive organisation: diversity creates 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. We are pleased to see that the UAE is doing so well and hope that our report with Heriot-Watt University contributes to gender balance in the GCC as a whole," she added.

The CEO of the Securities and Commodities Authority, Dr Maryam Butti Al Suwaidi, added, "Collating such a large amount of data, from such a diverse group of companies, and cross-verifying it is a huge task and responsibility. I truly commend the dedication of Aurora50 and Heriot-Watt University, and I am exceptionally delighted that this project is coming out from the UAE. 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."

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."

For more information, please visit www.hw.ac.uk/dubai.htm.

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