Palestine banker calls for Mideast quotas for women board members

Updated 07 April 2019
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Palestine banker calls for Mideast quotas for women board members

  • More than two in five Bank of Palestine employees are women
  • Norway became first country to impose gender quotas

DEAD SEA: There are many divides in Palestine — but for the territory’s largest bank that is, for once, the subject of some good news.
The Bank of Palestine says its board will have a fifty-fifty gender split within a couple of years — and its chairman has called for Norway-style quota systems for women in top management positions across the Middle East.
Hashim Shawa, group chairman of the Bank of Palestine, said 44 percent of the bank’s entire workforce are women, and that the board is on track for an equal divide.
“We will be the first bank I think in the Middle East and Arab world, and maybe one of the first in the world, to have a 50-50 quota at the board level. And that will be in the next board elections, which will be in a couple of years,” he said at the World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan.
“About 10 years ago, I looked at the workforce gender balance and we were at 12 percent female … no women on the board, no women in senior positions, managers, departments, or executive levels.
“Today we have three women out of 11 on the board, we’re about 44 percent gender balanced, and we have women branch managers, women heads of department. In the C-suite, our chief credit officer, risk management, chief of HR (are) women.”
Shawa said having more women employees, including those facing customers, had broad benefits to society.
“When men have to actually approach a woman to ask for a loan, this is how you change mindsets, and you change culture. And you achieve the goal of lifting the entire society,” he said.
The Middle East has woefully low levels of women in top management positions.
In the UAE, for example, just 1.5 percent of board seats in listed companies were held by women as of mid-2016 — well below the global average.
Shawa said that he advocates a quota system in the Middle East, whereby listed companies would be obliged to have a certain proportion of women on boards.
In 2003, Norway became the first country in the world to impose a gender quota, requiring listed firms to raise the proportion of women on their boards to at least 40 percent.
“It’s a really poor excuse to say, ‘ah there are not enough women with experience.’ And fundamentally, if you don’t mobilize 50 percent of your population you’ll always be 50 percent underdeveloped,” Shawa told Arab News.
“A lot of people talk about climate change and all the challenges we face, AI and all that stuff. But we need to really address this imbalance issue.”


Egypt agrees to pay Israel $500 million to end gas dispute

Updated 40 min 26 sec ago
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Egypt agrees to pay Israel $500 million to end gas dispute

CAIRO: Egypt says it has struck a deal with the state-owned Israel Electric Corp. to settle a fine for halting deliveries of natural gas.
A statement from Egypt’s Petroleum Ministry said the settlement deal, which was signed Sunday, would reduce the $1.7 billion fine to $500 million.
It says Egypt will pay the amount over eight and a half years.
In return, the Israeli company would drop other claims resulting from a 2015 arbitration decision.
Israel Electric had sued the state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas after a 2005 deal to export natural gas to Israel collapsed in 2012 amid militant attacks on a pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt has been battling insurgency for years.
Israel relied on the pipeline to meet its energy needs.