Aurora50 research shows women in UAE boards more than doubled
The UAE’s continued efforts to improve gender diversity in the boardroom have led to more women holding board positions this year (8.9 percent), up from 3.5 percent in 2020, according to research undertaken by Aurora50, a social enterprise working towards gender parity in GCC boardrooms, and Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG).
The first-of-its-kind report, Non-executive Board Careers in the UAE: A Path to Gender Balance, sponsored by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), reveals that 77 of the 868 board seats from the 115 listed companies on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) and the Dubai Financial Market (DFM), are now held by women. The boost to women on boards in the UAE follows the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) setting a quota last year mandating all listed companies in the UAE to appoint at least one woman to their boards.
The report interviewed 16 women with independent board directorships to understand key steps that aspiring women board directors can proactively take throughout their careers to reach non-executive board roles.
Diana Wilde, co-founder of Aurora50, said, “It is excellent to see such progress being made in boardrooms across the UAE, but we know there is a lot more that can be done to accelerate the pace of change. We hope this report will help women in the region to confidently make their way to the top. As one of the existing women board directors who was interviewed for this report said, ‘Women need to strategically plan the career they wish to have.’ If an aspiring woman does this, using our five-step plan, her timeline to become a non-executive board director, or NED, is just 10-15 years. While this is encouraging news for women, it is imperative for them to plan a board career early, to plan it well and with careful thought.”
Fatema Al Nuaimi, Chief Executive Officer for ADNOC LNG is one of ADNOC Group’s three female chief executives and the energy company has committed to ensuring at least one woman sits on the board of every ADNOC Group company by the end of 2022. Currently, 16 women sit on its 18 boards. ADNOC has its own gender balance committee and women’s leadership development programme and was Aurora50’s first corporate client.
To ensure UAE companies continue to find talented women board directors, the report sets out five steps to ensure aspiring women are appointed to their first non-executive board director position in 10-15 years or less:
1. Plan: Women should take the opportunity to plan their career to the board very early on, then hone their technical competencies, industry expertise and independent thinking to develop the governing skills vital to board directors.
2. Build: In this phase of their career, women should aim to develop soft skills and networks as well as learn their craft to gain experiences valuable to the boardroom.
3. Brand: Next, women should focus on their personal brand to raise awareness about who they are and to make it widely known that they are ready for a board role, rather than waiting for good performance to shine through.
4. Sustain: This phase of the career is about balance. Women need to develop and maintain a strong support system in life as they add ongoing board director duties to their role in an executive day job.
5. Give: Lastly, having reached the board pinnacle, women can help other women climb up the ladder and give back by mentoring and nominating other talented women, sharing their experiences, and helping to change mindsets.