The Gulf has emerged as an unlikely role model for gender diversity in the boardroom.
Almost a third of family-run companies in the Gulf have at least one woman on their board, a survey has revealed. In Britain just 7.8pc of companies have female directors; in America the figure is 11.4pc and in Japan (EUREX: FMJP.EX - news) less than 1pc.
The research, conducted by the Pearl Initiative, a body established to promote transparency and accountability to companies in the Gulf, found that 32pc of 100 family-owned companies in the region had female board members. However female representation on the board of listed companies is far lower at 1.5pc.
Imelda Dunlop, the executive director of the Pearl Initiative, told the Gulf newspaper, The National: “Family firms obviously are clearly a huge proportion of the economy of the Gulf and we do find that increasingly family firms do have a female board member on the board, which is great.”
Rana Ghandour Salhab, a partner at Deloitte Middle East, added: “Thirty-two per cent is an exceptionally high number, even compared to developed countries’ standards but I would like to see women ... make it to these positions even if it is a publicly owned company or a private sector company where the family situation does not control it.”
The survey comes amid a radical push by the Gulf to boost women in business. Ten days ago the United Arab Emirates cabinet made it compulsory for companies and government agencies to appoint women to their boards.
Announcing the move, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said on Twitter: “Women proved themselves in many workplaces and today we want them to have a strong presence in decision-making positions in our institutions.”
Muna Al Gurg, the director of retail for the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, a UAE family-owned business that has three female board members, said: “Diversity creates wealth. Any company which wants to be competitive must look at this gender balance issue.
A study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute of companies around the world worth $10bn or more, found that those with female board members outperformed those with all-male boards by 26pc over a period of six years.