MUSCAT // Women make up nearly 40 per cent of the total workforce of banks in Oman, and job experts say that they will outnumber men by 2020, a clear indication that Oman's financial services will be dominated by females a decade from now.
Out of 9,200 employees currently working in both commercial and specialised banks, 3,680 are women and the figure is rising at between 11 and 14 per cent a year compared with only 7 to 9 per cent for men.
"It has not been overnight that more women are getting into banks than men. It also will not be overnight that women will outnumber men. But at this growth, women will certainly be majority workers in Omani banks by the end of this decade," Mohammed al Rabeea, a manpower consultant based in Muscat, said recently.
There are 19 banks in Oman with 921 branches and offices across the country. Women employees make up majority in the branches but not in the headquarters, Mr al Rabeea said.
"It is only in the offices [headquarters] that men outnumber women but that will change as more women join the banks at a much faster rate than men," he said. Added Salaam al Shaksy, the chief executive of the National Bank of Oman: "women have proved that they can be as good, sometimes better, than their male counterparts in the financial sector. In areas like public relation and customer services, women do these tasks much better than men - perhaps due to their maternal instincts."
The chairperson of Oman International Bank, the country's fourth largest bank, is a woman while another woman is deputy chairperson at National Bank of Oman, the sultanate's second largest financial institution.
No woman occupies the post of chief executive in the banking sector, and of the nearly 3,100 managers only 14 per cent are women, according to statistics provided by banks. One of them is Salma al Jaidi, who heads the department of corporate credit risk at the National Bank of Oman.
"In the last 30 years, women were not career-oriented because they were not aggressive enough. Also, they did not get the right training opportunities to occupy senior positions. Senior managers used to offer women branch jobs because staff at branches did not need higher qualifications," Ms al Jaidi said.
But women now work in branches to gain experience needed to qualify for senior positions in the main offices.
Today, there are an increasing number of women in the Omani workforce with more of them holding senior positions both in the private sector and in government. In the current cabinet, there are three female ministers - in higher education, social development and tourism.
The Central Bank of Oman's governor, Hamood Sangour al Zadjali, said that the drive to give women equal opportunities in banking started in 1983 with the establishment of the College of Banking and Financial Studies.
"The college has produced a number of women graduates since then and I am not surprised that women now are majority in branches.
"I am confident that they will make their mark in the senior positions in the main offices as well, as more of them are educated and have picked up experience," Mr al Zadjali said.
Some male bankers say that women tend to be better branch managers than men because they are more efficient and are quicker to make decisions.
"In meetings, men talk too much, avoid the real problem and often brag about their own achievements. Women use the resources better, stick to the tasks at hand and don't beat about the bush," Faiz Al-Hamoodi, a loan officer at Bank Sohar, said.