Women in management

New national initiative aims to put more women on Jordan’s corporate boards

A new national digital platform, launched with the patronage of Queen Rania of Jordan, aims to create a comprehensive database of women qualified to hold corporate leadership and board positions, and so increase their presence in private sector decision-making roles.

Press release | 05 October 2022
AMMAN (ILO News) – The Association of Banks in Jordan (ABJ), in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Amam Ventures fund, has created a national digital platform seeking higher representation of women in decision-making positions in the private sector.

Launched under the patronage of Queen Rania of Jordan, the All on Board platform aims to build a comprehensive national database for competent women qualified to hold corporate leadership and board positions in the banking and other industries.

Seeking increased gender diversity and balance in the Jordanian private sector, the platform also connects these women with corporate boards and senior management to fill top executive positions, explained ABJ Chairperson, Bassem Al Salem.

“The idea of the platform was born as boards of banks lacked institutional talent acquisition strategies to enable qualified women to join these boards,” Al Salem said.

Despite progress in certain areas of women’s empowerment in Jordan, the female labour force participation remains low at 14 per cent – 15 per cent, compared to 54 per cent for males, according to figures issued by the Department of Statistics (DOS).

The positive impact of gender diversity:

  • Reduces implicit gender bias in hiring process and increases advocacy of women’s rights within organizations;
  • Improves resource management and performance, and expands client base;
  • Encourages job retention and enhances productivity of females employed in financial services;
  • Enables dialogue and multiple perspectives, which are key to building inclusive financial systems;
  • Supports financial inclusion;
  • Enables insights from women leaders on issues disproportionately impacting females.

Women hold just 3.5 pr cent of corporate board seats in the country, according to a 2015 joint report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Jordan Institute of Directors.

The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) has directed banks to enhance labour force participation of women by increasing their representation on boards of directors to 20 per cent, and in senior management positions to 25 per cent by 2024.

“Women on boards of banks are still underrepresented,” CBJ Governor Adel Sharkas said. “The CBJ is currently drafting a new financial inclusion strategy, which will aid women’s empowerment efforts and expand their access financial services.”

The ILO has partnered with Women on Boards of Jordan, a national NGO, to tackle the underrepresentation of women on boards of directors and in decision-making positions in the public and private sectors.

“The platform was the product of a collective national action by stakeholders working on legislative reform and women's capacity development, and believing in the need for improving their access to decision-making positions,” said Reem Aslan, ILO Arab States gender specialist with the Decent Work for Women Programme.

“It is an important step towards empowering Jordanian women to hold leadership positions, and increasing the female labour force participation in the country in general,” Aslan added, calling on other national economic sectors to take similar steps.

She urged Jordan to endorse legislation and policies aligned with ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), ratified by the country in 1963.

“The ILO will help Jordan in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5.5 on ensuring full participation in leadership and decision-making, and its indicator 5.5.2 on the proportion of women in managerial positions,” Aslan said.

Amam Ventures Chief Executive Officer Tamara Abdel-Jaber explained that the fund “works with its partners to train and qualify Jordanian women to enable them to join leadership and decision-making positions on national corporate boards.”

The ILO and its national partners seek to create meaningful change through a measurable impact on women’s empowerment and leadership on boards of private companies, state-owned enterprises, and syndicates. They aim to advocate and raise awareness about gender diversity at the legislative level; encourage the private sector to adopt gender equality and diversity policies; engage directly with the banking sector to change perception and practices; and build the capacity of women in leadership positions.

They are currently pushing for amendments to legislation, including company law, banking law, and governance instructions for listed shareholding companies, to introduce a quota system ensuring that a board of directors comprises at least 30 per cent of either sex. The lobbying has offered fruitful insights to a royal committee tasked with proposing political reforms. The committee has suggested legislative amendments requiring the same percentage in public bodies and private sector enterprises and banks, as well as in professional associations and employers’ organizations.

The ILO works in partisanship with UN Women, and with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Government of Norway. Sweden and Norway are founding members of the ILO and are key and generous partners in promoting the Decent Work Agenda.

In 2019, a global ILO report which surveyed almost 13,000 enterprises in 70 countries found that businesses with genuine gender diversity, particularly at senior level, perform better and see significant profit increases.

According to a survey conducted during the development of the ILO report Women in Business and Management: The business case for change, more than 57 per cent of survey respondents agreed that gender diversity initiatives improved business outcomes. Almost three-quarters of those companies that tracked gender diversity in their management reported profit increases of between 5 and 20 per cent, with the majority seeing increases of between 10 and 15 per cent.

More than 54 per cent said they saw improvements in creativity, innovation and openness and a similar proportion said effective gender inclusivity enhanced their company’s reputation.

The report also found that, at national level, an increase in female employment is positively associated with GDP growth. The finding is based on an analysis of data from 186 countries for the period 1991-2017.