Women in leadership positions: Are quotas the answer?

Women in leadership positions: Are quotas the answer?
Dr. Kerry Healey, president of Babson College, Massachusetts. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 12 April 2017

Women in leadership positions: Are quotas the answer?

Women in leadership positions: Are quotas the answer?

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: What is the role of the government and private sectors in tackling obstacles faced by women in leadership positions? How will greater women’s participation contribute to the global economy?
These were key questions posed at the Top CEO Conference held in King Abdullah Economic City on Tuesday.
Women’s participation in the global economy “could increase the world’s GDP (gross domestic product) by up to $28 trillion by the year 2050,” said Dr. Kerry Healey, president of Babson College, Massachusetts.
Khalid Abdullah Janahi — group CEO of the Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust (DMI Trust), who has 30 years of experience in banking and financial services — said: “If women were given the opportunity to run global economies, they would do much better than most men.”
Some speakers suggested the imposition of company gender quotas to boost the number of women in senior posts.
“I see quotas as a part of the solution, not the only one,” said Mohammed Hassan Ali Abudawood, president of the M. Abudawood Group.
“I’m with the quota system because we have a very high rate of women’s unemployment, not only in the Kingdom but around the world.”
Abudawood estimated the rate of Saudi women’s unemployment at about 26 percent. “In order to solve this problem, we should start doing a few things, including the quota system, where we force companies to hire a specific number of women employees… We can start with small numbers and make it pro-rata according to the activity of those companies.”
But hiring women in positions where they have to deal with dangerous operations can be difficult, he said.
Improving the economic conditions for women will eventually make them prosper and get better training, education and lifestyle instead of staying at home unemployed, he added.
Some 1,400 doctors cannot find jobs after graduating from medical school, said Abudawood.
“Most of them are women. We have to find jobs for them, and the way to do that is to go to hospitals and impose quotas. They have to train them and eventually hire them, even if the government subsidizes the process, which is available right now, but it needs a push.”
The Kingdom is taking steps to entrust women in leading positions. In one week in February, three Saudi women were appointed to top jobs in the male-dominated financial sector.
Sarah Al-Suhaimi was appointed chair of the Saudi stock exchange (Tadawul); Rania Nashar became CEO of Samba Financial Group; and Latifa Al-Sabhan was appointed chief financial officer of Arab National Bank (ANB).