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January 8, 2014

The Pearl Initiative signs MoU to empower GCC female execs

The Pearl Initiative (PI) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC) aimed at promoting the role of women executives in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

The PI, which champions transparency and corporate governance in the GCC region, said the aim of the MoU is to enhance diversity in companies’ boards by building a dialogue among corporate leaders, academia, investors and the media.

SBWC, which focuses on the integration of women in all economic activities in the GCC, said the agreement aims also at finding practical methods to attract, retain and develop women into senior positions "and thereby create a larger pool of board ready women."

As a first measure of the agreement, both organisations plan to carry out a survey of women in senior positions within the GCC region.

According to the PI and the SBWC, this survey will examine the processes and procedures that enabled women to reach senior positions so that their experiences can be used to create a "framework for assisting career development for women."

The PI executive director Imelda Dunlop said the MoU will help her organisation raise awareness of the business benefits of the advancement of women in decision-making positions.

"With a focus on preparing the next generation of leaders on the importance of integrity and ethics, we aim to ensure the next generation of women leaders are inspired to pursue the career paths they choose to follow free of glass ceilings," Dunlop said.

SBWC chairperson Ameera Abdelrahim Binkaram said she looks look forward to seeing the business women in the GCC region reap the rewards of the cooperative efforts between the IP and the SBWC.

"Both parties will immediately start work on a joint programme to develop important regional insight and foster communication between business leaders," Binkaram said.

Corporate governance

The economies of the six GCC countries thrive thanks to their oil production. However, concerns over the standards of corporate accountability and transparency in the region remain.

Approximately 80% of the GCC countries’ GDP is generated by family businesses in the region, which are not required to comply with strict reporting standards, and makes it difficult to assess these organisations’ impact on the wider economy.

In an interview of January 2013, where Dunlop told The Accountant why business leaders wanted to start the PI, she said:

"Our philosophy is about positive reinforcement and sharing of good practices to encourage the wider business community to adopt better practices […] In the long term, if we are to have a healthy, growing, competitive regional economy that is creating jobs, which needs to be the number one priority in the region, then one of the fundamental killers of competitiveness is a poor standard of corporate accountability and transparency."

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