The state of Egypt’s boards: Data from the new Women on Boards Observatory

The percentage of women on corporate boards of companies listed on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) rose to 9.7 percent compared to 8.7 percent in 2014, according to data collected by the Women on Boards Observatory in the third quarter of 2017.

Recent statistics also show that 46.4 percent of listed companies have at least one woman on the board.

By comparison, women held 18.1 percent of all directorships as of August 2015 among the 1,621 companies on the MSCI World Index. Among MSCI Emerging Markets Index companies, female directors comprised 8.4 percent of boards.

The data was presented at the first advisory board meeting of the Women on Boards Observatory, which was created through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the AUC School of Business and the EGX this past July. Below is an infograph of the main findings.

Designed by Gehad Hussein.

The partnership sets out to enhance the role of women in listed companies through the Women on Boards Observatory, whose flagship activities include establishing a database of women who are qualified and eligible to serve on boards as well as an annual monitoring report on the participation of women on boards in Egypt.

The observatory’s advisory board includes Heba El Serafi representing the EGX, Khaled Bassiouny representing the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), Magued Osman representing the National Council for Women, Nadine Abou El Gheit representing the United Nations Development Program, Hoda Elsadda representing the Women and Memory Forum, Dina El Mofty representing the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt and Ghada Howaidy representing the AUC School of Business.

Howaidy explained that 2018 will set the baseline by first gathering data on boards of Egyptian companies, and then targets can be set based on this information.

Meanwhile, El Serafi says that this is a main driver for inclusive growth and sustainability, adding that policies need to be gender sensitive.

Research shows that three women on a board is the “critical mass” that normalizes the presence and voice of women on boards, Howaidy said in the presentation, which surveyed global trends and processes by which different countries increased female representation on corporate boards.

“Out of 44 countries studied, 16 can be called champions meaning they have achieved a critical mass of three females on average,” according to the presentation. Nine out of the 16 countries adopted quotas to enhance female representation.

While some research makes a business case for having more women on boards, Howaidy says there can be a link but not necessarily a causality.

There are some positive trends to note with boards that have more gender diversity, such as fewer instances of governance-related scandals such as bribery, corruption, fraud and shareholder battles. It is also an indication of the organization’s openness to diversity of thought in its board and executive team, which are key to good governance and competitiveness.

The female perspective, it was noted, is “not ‘better’ but ‘different’,” adding that it is about a better use of the whole talent pool as well as building more inclusive and fairer business institutions.

“The commitment of the AUC School of Business to the Women on Boards Observatory comes in line with AUC’s initiatives to improve corporate governance and responsibility,” said AUC School of Business Dean Nizar Becheikh.

In 2014, AUC School of Business together with the Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Center created the Women on Boards Consortium, which established the Women on Boards Observatory. The AUC is a member of the UN Global Compact and the School of Business is a member of the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME).

The observatory’s activities will include an annual monitoring report, a database of eligible women directors, raising awareness of main stakeholders, training to increase the number of board-ready women, as well as advocacy to create a pathway for system-level intervention.

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