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The UAE wants women on boards, but it has hit a cultural wall


The UAE wants women on boards, but it has hit a cultural wall

Ninety-six percent of positions are held by men, a situation that will remain unless there is a shift in long-held views

Abeer Abu Omar and Filipe Pacheco

Getting more women on corporate boards in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was never going to be easy and the numbers after a new rule went into effect to boost their presence bears that out.

Since the country announced on March 15 that listed companies should have at least one female board member, only four of the 23 people added to such roles at firms on the UAE’s two major stock exchanges have been women. That barely moves the needle in a country where about 96% of such positions are held by men.

For Fatma Hussain, the only female on the board of Dubai-based logistics group Aramex, the sluggish progress is evidence of a cultural mindset that keeps women away from such roles. Women, especially from conservative backgrounds, shun posts that may require staying out late or interacting with male colleagues, said the UAE national, who’s also the chief human capital officer at TECOM Group, a unit of sovereign investment vehicle Dubai Holding...

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