By Avinash Saxena
Gulf Daily News, Manama, Bahrain.
Gender equality could add $13 trillion to the global economy, according to Deutsche Bank Group global head of diversity and inclusion Guelabatin Sun.
She said that studies have shown that companies get a 33 per cent improvement in return on investment when more women join their board of directors.
Ms Sun was speaking during the Women in Financial and Banking Sector Conference, organised under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and Supreme Council for Women (SCW) president.
The one-day conference held yesterday at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, was organised by Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) in co-operation with SCW.
It marks the conclusion of a year-long campaign being held as part of the 2015 Bahraini Women’s Day celebrations to showcase and promote the role and achievements of women in the financial and banking sector.
HRH Princess Sabeeka, who was present during the opening of the event, voiced the importance of supporting the financial and banking sector to assure women’s presence and contribution to the development of national economy and attraction of youth, lauding CBB’s growing role in supporting SCW, by encouraging financial and banking enterprises in terms of equal opportunities.
CBB Governor Rasheed Al Maraj hailed HRH Princess Sabeeka’s patronage that helped to highlight women’s presence in the pivotal sector for about 50 years.
He called on financial institutions to consolidate the culture of equal opportunities in their organisations and take practical steps to increase the proportion of women working in this sector.
Mr Al Maraj assured them of all support from the CBB to create an appropriate work environment for increased participation of women, who already account for 32pc of total manpower in the financial sector of Bahrain.
“We have many inspiring success stories and an ongoing effort for the development of competencies.”
SCW secretary-general Hala Al Ansari said to ensure mainstreaming of women’s needs by promoting the principle of equal opportunities, several steps had been taken to introduce and activate the National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women (2013-2022) to private institutions in the banking sector.
“Current trends in Bahrain indicate that the male to female ratio in the country’s working age population is 1:1 and there is tremendous scope for absorbing women into the working population,” she said.
A project showed that Bahrain does not stray too far from the global percentages in relation to representation of women in the workplace.
“I do not think that it is appropriate to call what women face when seeking upward mobility, the glass ceiling, it should instead be called ‘the imaginary ceiling’ that needs to be overcome based on competence and confidence.”
Global financial industry executive Denise Wilson, the chief executive of the Davies Review for Women on Boards in the UK, said through a business-led framework, the organisation had succeeded in more than doubling the number of women serving on FTSE-350 boards in just over four years and seen a fundamental culture change take place at the heart of British business.
Ms Wilson leads a business focused task force and voluntary framework for increasing the number of women on FTSE-350 boards.
Shaikha Hessa bint Khalifa Al Khalifa, the chairwoman of Al Salam Bank since 2012 and the first chairwoman of a financial institution in Bahrain, said over the past five decades, Bahraini women have played a prominent role in promoting the economic development and advancement process in the kingdom through active participation in both the financial and banking sectors that has contributed to making Bahrain a leading financial hub in
She participated in a panel discussion on Leading Change: Factors shaping the future of women in finance, moderated by CNBC Arabia business news anchor Lubna Bouzam who also interviewed ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive Chanda Kochhar. ICICI Bank is India’s leading private bank.
More than 300 participants of the conference discussed factors shaping the future of women in finance, sustainability and competitiveness of women in the industry and leading the transformation.
The conference brought together senior members and heads of the kingdom’s top financial institutions, senior women in the industry and the next generation of aspiring young women leaders and executives working in the banking and finance sector.
Sponsors of the conference and campaign are National Bank of Bahrain, KFH-Bahrain and BBK as lead sponsors, Al Baraka Banking Group as the Women’s Empowerment Partner for Islamic Banking, Al Salam Bank, United Gulf Bank, Mumtalakat and GPIC as Gold sponsors, Venture Capital Bank and Khaleeji Commercial Bank as Silver sponsors. Bronze sponsors include Citi, SICO, Bapco, and Banagas, with Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay and Moda Mall as hospitality and lifestyle partners.