Gender equality is essential, so why isn’t it happening?

Samba Financial Group CEO Rania Nashir is the first female executive at a Saudi listed bank. (Future Investment Summit/YouTube)
Updated 29 October 2019

Gender equality is essential, so why isn’t it happening?

  • Economists estimate that more women in the workforce could generate up to $28 trillion in global GDP by 2025
  • According to the UN, women’s economic empowerment is good for the economy

DUBAI/RIYADH: Gender inequality is still a worldwide issue, and while some organizations say they are trying to rectify the situation, it requires genuine social acceptance if policies surrounding female empowerment are to make any real difference, a leading Saudi executive has warned.
“Samba has all the right policies supporting the inclusion of women in terms of the pay grade and mentorship programs,” Samba Financial Group CEO Rania Nashir said on Tuesday on the first day of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) 2019 conference in Riyadh.
The majority of female employees at Samba work at its head office, and “Samba has no pay gap,” she said. “Promotions aren’t based on gender. They’re based on competency, skills and qualifications.”
But these policies “won’t be as effective” if “social acceptance and family support isn’t there,” Nashir said.
“There are two main challenges for women inclusiveness in the workforce: Men in leadership to believe that women can add value, and for women themselves to believe that they have a role to play.”
Nashir, who said she was supported by her family in her decision to not marry, said women are CEOs by nature, being able to multitask and “manage chain, human resources, diversity, education — they’re project managers.”
Although she lauded current government efforts, including investing in women’s education and health, “this hasn’t been reflected in their contribution to the economy,” Nashir said.
“Women are contributing 23 percent to the economy. This looks low, but if we compare it to two years ago, it was only 17 percent,” she added.
“This shows accelerated growth of women inclusiveness in the workforce, but we have to do more. We have to have more role models.”
Economists estimate that more women in the workforce could generate up to $28 trillion in global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.
Also on the panel discussing the “She economy” was Dr. Sahar Nasr, Egypt’s minister of investment and international cooperation.
She said Egypt had managed to enable an environment for women to play an active role economically, and provide equal access to finance, capacity-building and training.
According to the UN, women’s economic empowerment is good for the economy — it is estimated that gender gaps cost the economy 15 percent of GDP.
The UN also states that economic equality is good for business. It is widely documented that companies that increase employment and leadership opportunities for women perform better, are more profitable and experience greater growth.
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said: “The benefits of a diverse workforce far outweigh any costs that come with the course of a natural lifecycle.”
He added that Citigroup already provides emergency childcare facilities to help parents when their child is unable to attend school.
The three-day FII, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, is being attended by heads of state, government leaders, and decision-makers from the business and finance communities.


Gulf economies to take coronavirus exports hit says S&P

Updated 17 February 2020

Gulf economies to take coronavirus exports hit says S&P

  • S&P expects oil prices to remain at $60 per barrel in 2020 and decline to $55 from 2021
  • The ratings agency expects the impact on the banking sector to be low, with little direct exposure to Chinese companies

LONDON: Gulf states already hurt by a weak oil price could reap further economic pain from the impact of the coronavirus on their exports, S&P Global Ratings warned on Monday.

The ratings agency believes there is a risk that the economic impact of the virus could increase unpredictably with implications for overall economic growth, the oil price and the creditworthiness of some companies. Still, its base case scenario anticipates a limited impact for now.

“Given the importance of the Chinese economy to global economic activity, S&P Global Ratings expects recent developments could weigh on growth prospects in the GCC, already affected by low oil prices and geopolitical uncertainty,” it said in a report.

Although the rate of spread and timing of the peak of the new coronavirus is still uncertain, S&P said that modeling by epidemiologists indicated a likely range for the peak of between late-February and June.

Notwithstanding the spread of the virus, S&P expects oil prices to remain at $60 per barrel in 2020 and decline to $55 from 2021.

It sees the biggest potential impact on regional economies to be felt in terms of export volumes. S&P estimates that GCC countries send between 4 percent and 45 percent of their exported goods to China, with Oman being the most exposed (45.1 percent) and the UAE the least exposed (4.2 percent).

Beyond the trade of goods, the Gulf’s hospitality sector could also feel the effect of reduced tourist arrivals with hotels and shopping malls likely to suffer. The impact could be further amplified because of the high-spending nature of Chinese tourists.

On-location spending by Chinese tourists is the fourth largest in the world at $3,064 per person, according to Nielsen data. About 1.4 million Chinese tourists visited the GCC in 2018 with expectations of that figure rising to 2.2 million in 2023, and with the UAE as the main destination.

Chinese passengers also accounted for 3.9 percent of passengers passing through Dubai International Airport in 2018.

S&P said that if the effect of the new coronavirus is felt beyond March, the number of visitors to Expo 2020 in Dubai could be lower than expected.

The ratings agency expects the impact on the banking sector to be low, with little direct exposure to Chinese companies.