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.”


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.