UAE urges listed firms to have at least one female board director

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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The Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) has mandated all the listed companies in the UAE to have at least one female director on their boards, a decision came following the board meeting held last day by the market’s regulator.

During the meeting, the head of the SCA’s board and UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla Bin Touq stated that the authority’s priority in the coming period will be to upgrade the country’s markets to meet the highest global standards.

“We will work with all partners to enhance the local investment environment and support its legal infrastructure to meet the UAE Vision 2021 and the targets of the next 50 years”, Mr. Bin Touq added.

The current decision is in line with a series of measures taken by the country to boost female representation at the highest levels of UAE business.

Last week, the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) entered into an agreement with Aurora50, a social enterprise aimed at increasing the number of women on the boards of both public and private UAE companies. The two entities have agreed to increase the exchange of information and build a strong pipeline of female talent.

According to Aurora50, women currently sit on the boards of 28 of the 110 listed companies in the UAE, or 26 percent of the total. However, they only make up around 3.5 percent (29 of a total of 823 board members) of board directors of these firms.

Earlier, the SCA had set a goal for companies to achieve, 20 percent female representation on their boards and those that fail to reach this level having to explain reasons for any shortfall.

“We previously used to accept explanations if there wasn’t compliance, but now we are moving to make female representation compulsory. So now there must be at least one female member on the board of any listed company,” the regulator’s chief executive, Obaid Saif Al Zaabi, stated.

According to the World Bank’s report, the UAE has the highest level of women participating in the workforce than any country in the Middle East and North Africa region, with 57.5 percent in 2020. 

The Washington-based lender said recent reforms made by the UAE have seen the country’s score in its annual Women, Business and the Law study increase to 82.5 out of 100 points in 2021, up from 30 in 2019.

Related: 20/20 Women on Boards sets new goal to attain gender equality