Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Business Boardrooms in MENAT Region

By: GWL Team | Wednesday, 10 May 2023

In corporate boardrooms, women might encounter a number of difficulties, such as gender prejudice, a lack of representation, and difficulty rising to positions of leadership. Women may find it more difficult to participate fully and flourish in an environment when there is a lack of diversity in leadership.

Depending on the nation and industry, different women are underrepresented in corporate boardrooms to varying degrees. However, women are generally notably underrepresented in corporate boardrooms across the globe.

Women occupy just 22.6% of board seats globally and 6.9% of CEO roles in S&P 500 businesses, according to the 2021 Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey & Company. Women have 33% of the board seats in the biggest corporations in Europe, but when examining executive board seats, the number falls to 19%.

Women are disproportionately underrepresented in business boardrooms in certain nations, including Japan. Only 5% of board positions in listed Japanese companies were held by women, according to a Deloitte report from 2021.

According to a research, women are notably underrepresented in business boardrooms

Despite some nations, like the UAE and Morocco, taking steps to increase their presence, women are notably underrepresented in corporate boardrooms in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey, a report has found.

According to the most recent study by Corporate Women Directors International, an organisation that encourages women's involvement on corporate boards globally, more than half of all listed businesses have all-male boards.

In the 16 Menat economies that were analysed, only 8.6% of the 1,148 listed companies have female board members.

The survey, which was unveiled on the second day of the 2023 Global Summit of Women in Dubai, said that the majority of businesses in the area do not acknowledge the advantages of gender diversity in executive positions.

Menat is behind all other areas in the percentage of women appointed to board posts, with Latin America, the second-lowest ranked region, with 14.5% of board positions held by women.

In Europe, there are about 33% of enterprises with female board members. According to the survey, the US and Canada are represented by 32%, followed by Africa at 19.1% and Asia-Pacific at 16.2%.

Only 779 of the 9,051 board seats of listed companies included in the study are held by women. Boardrooms in the Menat area are mainly male-dominated, with males holding 91.4% of the directorships.

Even more apparent, according to the report, is the "complete absence [of women] on the boards of the majority of companies in the region."

In actuality, there are only men on the boards of 55.5% of the 1,148 corporations. It's possible that most businesses have not yet realised the advantages of gender diversity on corporate boards. Clearly, "ample room for improvement" exists, according to the report.

Menat may be on the verge of transformation in terms of corporate boardroom gender diversity, while presently placing last globally, according to regulatory initiatives implemented by many governments in the area.

Despite the fact that the Menat area “pales in comparison to other parts of the world, it is important to recognise that its overall percentage is where other regions and some of today's top-performing countries were just over a decade ago," the survey noted.

Less than the current rate for Menat, 5.9% of women were represented on the boards of the biggest corporations in Asia-Pacific ten years ago. Currently, that proportion has nearly tripled to 16.2%.

The study stated that Menat "may just be newer to the gender-diversity-on-boards effort." Seven of the regional economies, including the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Turkey, have aggressively implemented a number of policies to "move the needle on enabling women's access to board seats in their listed companies."

The UAE, which has the second-largest economy in the Arab world, was the first nation in the Menat region to impose a quota on the representation of women in business boardrooms. As part of the nation's initiatives to enhance gender diversity in enterprises, listed firms in the UAE have increased the proportion of women on their boards by more than double since 2020.

According to research by Aurora50, women had 77 board seats in listed businesses in 2022, up from 29 seats in 2020. The research stated that as of June 2022, women held 8.9% of the 868 board seats of the 115 businesses registered on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and the Dubai Financial Market, an increase from 3.5% in 2020.

In the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 from the World Economic Forum, the UAE came in top place among Arab nations. It moved up four ranks in a single year, moving from 72nd to 68th overall.

The total participation of women on boards is less than 9%, but this conceals a significant variation across the 16 Menat nations, which ranges from a high of 18.2% to a low of 1.8%, according to the research.

Morocco tops the list, with 18.2% of board seats in the top 100 publicly traded firms held by women. Turkey comes in second with 17.9% female presence. Although these percentages may not seem impressive, they surpass those of several EU member states, including Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malta, Estonia, and Cyprus, according to the report.

With 15.9% of its directors being women, Egypt has the third-highest ratio in the area, after Algeria (14.7%) and Tunisia (10.5%). The UAE, which ranks sixth overall, has the largest proportion of women in board positions among the six nations that make up the GCC economic bloc, with 7.6% of director posts in businesses that are listed on the Dubai Financial Market and the Abu Dhabi Securities.

Syria comes in second to the UAE with 6.6% of board seats filled by women, followed by Iraq with 5.8%, Palestine with 5.7%, Jordan with 5.2%, and Oman with 5.1%. Kuwait (4.8%), Lebanon (4.5%), Bahrain (4.2%), Saudi Arabia (2.9%), and Qatar (1.8%) are among the nations having participation of less than five percent.