Nearly one-third of family businesses in the Gulf Cooperation Council states have one or more female board members, according to research by the non-profit Pearl Initiative.
Imelda Dunlop, executive director of the Pearl Initiative, told CampdenFB: “It illustrates an openness among family firms in the GCC; they don’t regard board seats as being for male family members only.”
The Pearl Initiative, set up to improve corporate transparency and accountability in Arab countries, interviewed representatives from more than 100 family-owned firms in the GCC, finding 32% had mixed-gender boards.
This contrasts with just 1.5% of board positions in listed companies across the GCC – composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This figure included women on the boards of family-controlled businesses, added Dunlop.
Although more likely to hold board positions in family companies, woman were not necessarily better represented in the executive management of family businesses than they were in other companies in the region, she said. “It doesn’t mean that the women in these seats are executives in the company; they can be non-executive directors as well.”
The findings by the Pearl Initiative come in the wake of a move by the United Arab Emirates to make it compulsory for corporations and government agencies to include women on their boards of directors.
The announcement was made by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the prime minister and vice-president of the UAE, on 9 December. He tweeted: “Women proved themselves in many workplaces and today we want them to have a strong presence in decision-making positions in our institutions.”
Dunlop said the decision “demonstrates the seriousness with which the UAE cabinet takes this issue”. Details on how the policy will be implemented have not yet been made available.
There have been several studies on the connection between mixed-gender boards and company performance. In July, the Credit Suisse Research Institute published research that found “companies with at least one woman on the board would have outperformed stocks of companies with no woman on the board by 26% over the last six years”.