Female presence on UAE boards now compulsory

Public and private sectors boards must now have at least one female director
By Shane McGinley
Mon 10 Dec 2012 12:16 PM

The UAE has made it compulsory for all public and private sector organisations to include a female representative on their board of directors, the government announced.

“Women proved themselves in many workplaces and today we want them to have a strong presence in decision-making positions in our institutions,” UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced on Twitter following a meeting of the UAE cabinet.

“We have also made a decision to make the representation of women, in all the boards of directors of companies and [government] entities, compulsory,” he added.

The move follows calls last month at the Arabian Business Women’s Forum for Gulf governments to consider implementing some form of quota system to increase participation of women in the workplace.

At present, women in the Gulf make up around 18 percent of the labour force, compared to around 55 percent in Europe.

Delegates at the forum said regional governments should consider implementing a female quota system, similar to nationalisation schemes seen across the Gulf.

Earlier this year, UAE minister of foreign trade, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, said introducing compulsory female quotas in UAE workplaces will not encourage more Emirati women to take up positions in the private sector.

“While quotas are set by law in some countries, I believe this should not be the go-to solution for the UAE and the region in general. As a woman I would prefer to attain my position by real merit rather than always wonder if I was appointed to the board just to hit a quota or through affirmative action,” she said in an interview with market research firm Insight Discovery.

“Collaboration will need to start from the top. If the government shows a genuine concern for empowering women, then the concerned agencies, the private sector and the general public will follow suit,” she added.

Norway became the first country in 2003 to introduce female quotas under a so-called “golden skirt” policy that aims to have 40 percent of directors of listed companies to be women. Iceland followed with a series of targets and quotas in a bid for at least 40 percent of directors to be women by 2013.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron in February said he would not rule out introducing quotas as a way of getting more women into top executive jobs.

Sheikha Lubna was the first ever female to be appointed as a government minister in the UAE.

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