Fatema Al Nuaimi, CEO of ADNOC LNG, one of the group's three female chief executives. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The number of board seats held by women in the UAE has more than doubled in two years, a new study said on Thursday.

Of the 868 board seats in 115 listed companies on Abu Dhabi’s ADX and Dubai’s DFM, 77 are held by women in 2022, up from 29 in 2020, it added.

The ADNOC-sponsored report, ‘Non-executive Board Careers in the UAE: A Path to Gender Balance’, undertaken by Aurora50, a social enterprise, and Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), interviewed 16 women with independent board directorships to understand key steps that aspiring women board directors can proactively take throughout their careers to reach non-executive board roles.

The boost to women on boards in the UAE follows the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) setting a quota last year mandating all listed companies in the UAE to appoint at least one woman to their boards.

Diana Wilde, co-founder of Aurora50, said: “It is excellent to see such progress being made in boardrooms across the UAE, but we know there is a lot more that can be done to accelerate the pace of change. We hope this report will help women in the region to confidently make their way to the top.”

Fatema Al Nuaimi, CEO, ADNOC LNG, said: “ADNOC is committed to supporting gender balance and helping women develop, grow and excel in their careers, which is why we are proud to have collaborated with Aurora50. This important research provides us with better insight and actionable recommendations to further accelerate gender diversity on boards in support of the national gender balance agenda.”

Al Nuaimi is one of ADNOC Group’s three female chief executives and the energy company has committed to ensuring at least one woman sits on the board of every ADNOC Group company by the end of 2022. Currently, 16 women sit on its 18 boards. ADNOC has its own gender balance committee and women’s leadership development programme and it was Aurora50’s first corporate client.

Five steps to the top

To ensure UAE companies continue to find talented women board directors, the report sets out five steps to ensure aspiring women are appointed to their first non-executive board director position in 10-15 years or less:

1. Plan: Women should take the opportunity to plan their career to the board very early on, then hone their technical competencies, industry expertise and independent thinking to develop the governing skills vital to board directors.

2. Build: In this phase of their career, women should aim to develop soft skills and networks as well as learn their craft to gain experiences valuable to the boardroom.

3. Brand: Next, women should focus on their personal brand to raise awareness about who they are and to make it widely known that they are ready for a board role, rather than waiting for good performance to shine through.

4. Sustain: This phase of the career is about balance. Women need to develop and maintain a strong support system in life as they add ongoing board director duties to their role in an executive day job.

5. Give: Lastly, having reached the board pinnacle, women can help other women climb up the ladder and give back by mentoring and nominating other talented women, sharing their experiences, and helping to change mindsets.