x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Boardroom quotas still controversial

Women in the UAE: When Norway became one of the world's first country to introduce boardroom quotas in 2003, it was not welcomed by everyone.

When Norway became the world's first country to introduce boardroom quotas in 2003, the policy was not welcomed by all quarters of the business community.

It attracted significant opposition from the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, a business lobby that represents employers, on the basis that it would lead to "tokenism".

The body feared that talented men would be overlooked in favour of "poorer-quality" female candidates, a British government report said last year.

Some women still have misgivings, although not for the same reasons.

"On this issue, I am happy to see that the UAE is taking the lead, regionally to ensure the participation of women," said Erin Miller Rankin, a senior associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

"However, to be honest, I am generally not a huge fan of quotas as it can lead to the misapprehension that women are being promoted to positions for which they are not qualified." But she added that quotas may be useful in the short-term to showcase women's capabilities.

Around the world, progress has been slow and there are many well-qualified women who do not seem able to reach these positions easily, said Rana Ghandour Salhab, a partner in talent and communications at Deloitte Middle East.

"But I still believe that only qualified men and women should make it in any leadership position, whether in the private or public sector," she said.

"There should be ... no action to bring the wrong person. Even for the right reasons. But I do strongly believe there are qualified women out there."