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Women hold 5% of GCC board seats

Cover image of The GCC Board Gender Index Report 2024 by Aurora50 and Heriott-Watt University with text 'download free report'. Image by Wepik on Freepik
Suzanne Locke 30 April 2024

The new GCC Board Gender Index Report 2024 reveals that women hold 5.2 percent of all listed company board seats in the GCC.

The report,  released by Aurora50 and Heriot-Watt University, is the only authoritative, cross-GCC report of its kind.

Download the GCC Board Index Report 2024 for free (form leads to PDF).

It represents the first time that a comprehensive data set has been published collating information from across the GCC.

Women hold 10.8% of UAE board seats

A total of 752 companies are listed in the six GCC countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Country-wise, the percentage of board positions held by women at publicly listed companies across the GCC is as follows:

• UAE: 10.8% (133 of 1,231 seats)
• Oman: 5.8% (45 of 783 seats)
• Bahrain: 5.5% (20 of 363 seats)
• Kuwait: 5.0% (48 of 963 seats)
• Saudi Arabia: 2.0% (36 of 1,811 seats)
• Qatar: 1.8% (8 of 440 seats)

Of the 168 companies listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) and Dubai Financial Market (DFM), 133 out of 1,231 (10.8%) of board seats are held by women.

‘Diversity creates impact’

Commenting on the launch of the GCC Board Gender Index 2024, HH Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, co-founder of Aurora50, said: “We are excited to present an authoritative GCC-wide benchmark that charts the growing diversity of listed company boards in the region.

“Our first initiative at Aurora50 was Pathway20, an accelerator for regional women board directors, and we still believe that progress in gender diversity starts at the top.

“A diverse board helps create a diverse, inclusive organisation: diversity creates impact for the organisation, industry and society. With such transparent data now available, the need for a pipeline of female talent, from managers to senior leaders to board directors, becomes increasingly clear.

“We are pleased to see that the UAE is doing so well and hope that our report with Heriot-Watt University contributes to gender balance in the GCC as a whole.”

‘A comprehensive baseline’

Provost and Vice Principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Professor Dame Heather McGregor, added, “As someone who has conducted academic research into gender balance on public company boards for several years, I was keen to continue this work in the GCC region.

“When I moved to the UAE in 2022, I noticed the absence of a single authoritative and accessible source of data.  I am pleased to have, with Aurora50, developed a comprehensive baseline from which I and other scholars and interested parties can measure – and celebrate – future progress.”

Heriot-Watt University and Aurora50 will publish this data as a research partnership each year in April, until 2027 at least. 

Accelerating the pace of change

Through publishing this data each year, Heriot-Watt University and Aurora50 hope to keep the spotlight on the progress made and thus accelerate the pace of change.

A fully searchable database of the index is expected to be made available to third parties from September 2024. 

Bespoke projects will be undertaken for industry partners on an on-request basis, and future subjects will include the role and representation of women on board committees.

Pathway20 is Aurora50’s powerful 12-week board accelerator for busy executives: the boardroom launchpad for influential GCC women. Aurora50 has been running Pathway20 since 2020 and over 80 percent of graduates are now non-executive directors.

Contact Aurora50 to discuss sponsoring future editions of this report or any other research requirements you may have.

Download the GCC Board Index Report 2024 for free (form leads to PDF).