Role of GCC women executives set to rise

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - The percentage of women on boards has reached 23 per cent globally, an increase of 4 per cent since in 2016.

Australia, Sweden, Finland, Thailand, Norway, Canada and South Africa lead the way in female representation on executive committees

Female representation on executive committees of companies in Gulf countries ranges between 4 per cent and 11 per cent, but is steadily improving as there is a clear opportunity for growth, according to the Oliver Wyman 2020 Women in Financial Services report.

Australia, Sweden, Finland, Thailand, Norway, Canada and South Africa lead the way in female representation on executive committees. The proportion of women on executive committees has increased to 20 per cent from 16 per cent globally since 2016, and the percentage of women on boards has reached 23 per cent, an increase of 4 per cent since in 2016, said the report.

However, the industry still has a long way to go. CEO and chair representation remain far too low at 6 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. Twenty-one per cent of financial services companies' executive committees and 15 percent of boards still consist entirely of men, said the report.

"Here in the Middle East, we are seeing progress, but there is a lot more that can be done to ensure steps are being taken by companies to improve regional diversity and inclusion," said Jeff Youssef, partner for the public sector at Oliver Wyman, who is driving the 'Men for change' agenda across the firm in the region.

The US has only 26 per cent female representation on executive committees, while the UK and Hong Kong have 20 per cent.

According to McKinsey Global Institute report, $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 if gender equality is advanced, of which $0.6 trillion will be added to Mena countries' GDP.

Around the world, women have a long way to go. As of November 2018, only 24 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995. As of January 2019, 11 women worldwide are serving as heads of state and 10 are serving as heads of government.

"Private and government sectors must come together to deliver the next wave of change by applying frameworks that drive a much broader approach to gender balance. We know that when gender balance is at the core of a firm's business strategy there is a far greater chance of delivering better business outcomes," said Youssef.

According to the Oliver Wyman report, financial services firms can capture more than $700 billion in additional annual revenue by serving women better. This estimate is greater than the annual revenue of the largest financial institutions globally.

"Women are arguably the single largest underserved group of customers in financial services. Despite playing increasingly influential roles as buyers of financial services, their needs are not consistently being met," said Jessica Clempner, principal and lead author of the report. "Firms are leaving money on the table by not listening to and understanding their women customers."

To capture this revenue, firms should not treat women as a single customer segment. Rather, firms must understand the needs of their women customers and create products and services tailored to those needs - resulting in better products overall for all customers. For example, the report found that retail and wealth products are not consistently designed for women's financial lives and other products that appear to be gender-neutral in fact default toward men.

In addition to looking at women as customers, the report examines women as employees, supervisors, and shareholders, and concludes that firms must take a broad approach to gender diversity to make meaningful progress. The report found that supervisors and shareholders are increasingly applying pressure on firms to drive better returns through diversity and inclusion.

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Issac John

Editorial Director of Al Khaleej Today, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Al Khaleej Today. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.

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