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Hawkamah backs board gender plan

Women in the UAE: The new chief executive of Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance is planning an initiative to encourage regional companies to appoint more females to their board.

The new chief executive of Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance is planning an initiative to encourage regional companies to appoint more women to their boards.

Leonardo Peklar said he hoped to invite female board members from global multinationals to the region to extol the virtues of women business leaders.

"Gender diversity on the board is one of the strongest focuses and I'm happy that the UAE has taken a lead on this issue in the region," said Mr Peklar. "The crisis has made companies look at their unused potential and it is clear that if you use half your talent it is difficult to win."

The issue has become a hot topic after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced in December that it would become compulsory for every government company in the UAE to have a female board member.

Currently, only 1.5 per cent of board seats in the GCC are held by women, according to Hawkamah statistics.

Hawkamah, based in Dubai, set up its own board of directors in February, appointing Maryam Buti Al Suwaidi, the deputy chief executive for licensing, supervision and enforcement of the Securities and Commodities Authority, as its female representative.

In an effort to promote the cause further, Hawkamah last month helped to launch an index that will track the number of women on the boards of publicly listed companies across the region.

Mr Peklar, who had previously been working for Hawkamah in an advisory capacity, was appointed on March 28 as Hawkamah's first chief executive.

Another priority for Mr Peklar is the issue of reforming the way the region's mainly family-owned businesses are run.

"What's changed in recent times is the global crisis and that's brought corporate governance to the spotlight over the whole world," he said.

"That coincides with many family businesses in this region reaching their second or third generation, a transition stage that is critical for the longevity of the business and the sustainable development of the economy."

Banks and Islamic finance and private equity were other sectors he planned to focus on improving corporate governance, he said.



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