Women representation on Egyptian corporate boards shows encouraging signs

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Every day, more and more women across the globe strive to make a living independently, and are in the process struggling to prove their competence in a largely male-dominated labor market. Women represent 60 percent of university graduates globally and 80 percent of consumer-goods-purchasing decision-makers. Nevertheless, many working women often find themselves discriminated against when it comes to being picked for a job or getting an equal pay as their male peers, and the boards of directors of corporates are no exception. Worldwide, only a small portion of women make it to boards.

Concerned with this issue, the Egypt Women on Boards Observatory (WoB), founded in 2017 by the AUC School of Business, has been dedicating its efforts to increasing the representation of women on corporate boards in Egypt and the MENA region, with the main aim of sensitizing all stakeholders to gender issues. Earlier this year (March 2022), the Observatory launched its 2021 WoB Annual Monitoring Report and shed light on the key its takeaways in a webinar.

The report analyzes the data of the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) listed companies, the banking sector, the public enterprise companies, and the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) non-banking financial sector companies.

The report shows a remarkable increase in the total number of women on boards of companies and banks, up from 714 in 2020 to 1043 in 2021. The Women on Board Indicator is 16.7 percent, marking a positive growth rate of 23 percent compared to 13 percent in 2020, according to Howaidy. “What we are seeing is an encouraging sign that proves we are on the right path,” said Ghada Howaidy, Associate Dean for Executive Education and founder of the WoB.

Hanna Mitry Second Secretary of the Swedish Embassy of in Cairo and head of economic and cultural affairs at the Embassy said that the issue of women on boards is a top priority for the Swedish government. “We are pleased to be helping Egyptian women reach a gender equal society,” she added.

The 2021 report highlighted the initiatives taken by the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) to enhance WoB representation of women in non-bank financial companies (NBFC), as decree no.110 of 2021 stipulated that it is necessary for women representation to make up at least 25 percent, or at least ensure 2 women members are on the boards of NBFIs.

The Egyptian Exchange (EGX), the Ministry of the Public Business Sector and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) have all issued decisions throughout 2021 to ensure that women are properly represented in the boards of directors of EGX-listed companies and banks in Egypt.

The 2021 report shows that the percentage of EGX-listed companies with zero women on board decreased from 42.7 percent in 2020 to 14.9percent in 2021, a significant decrease of 66 companies.
Additionally, the percentage of EGX-listed companies with at least one woman on board decreased from 57.3 percent in 2020 to 85.1 percent in 2021, marking a growth rate of 48.5 percent. According to the report, 29 women still need to be added annually to boards in order to reach the 2030 strategy target of EGX-listed companies.

On the other hand, the percentage of women representation on the non-banking financial sector (NBFS) reached 18.6 percent in 2021, marking a +26.5 percent increase in comparison to 14.7 percent in 2020. The percentage of NBFS companies with zero women on board decreased from 47.5 percent in 2020 to 19.7 percent in 2021, a decrease of 153 companies.

Hazem Kamel, NI Capital’s Managing Director of Private Equity highlighted that 40 percent of the company’s investment portfolio comes from women. “We have a strategy that specifically focuses on giving more loans to women,” he added, noting that NI Capital is keen on having women on its board of directors.

WoB has partnerships with many government bodies, including the Ministries of Planning and the Public Business Sector, as well as the National Council of Women, EGX and CBE.

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