Women matter in the financial sector

Global Economies

International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the contributions women make to our societies. This year, the global theme is to break the bias to empower women and forge inclusivity and diversity.

In the UAE, we are fortunate that women’s empowerment has been an area of focus for several years. At the highest level, the UAE Cabinet currently includes nine women which is a great reseparation at the highest level.

Staff Writer

Published: 08/03/2022

3 min read

Last year, I completed the Dubai Leaders Programme which is part of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Leadership Development’s programmes along with many like-minded women who have broken many glass-ceilings to reach to where they are today. Graduates, including myself are expected to become UAE’s future leaders.

Another important point to mention is the new mandate for UAE listed firms to introduce at least one woman onto their Boards which is definitely a step in the right direction to support gender balance and a diverse way of thinking at board level. DIFC has partnered with Aurora50, a social enterprise with a mandate to address gender balance in the boardroom, to support with educating potential female board members and equip them with necessary knowledge of corporate governance and finance. Last year, Aurora50 reported that women were present on the boards of 28 out of 110 UAE listed companies. However, they only make up 3.5 per cent of all board positions. We still have a long way to go but I am sure we are getting there.


Financial Services has historically been an industry where women have been under-represented, especially at a senior level. McKinsey research highlights that the number of women and men entering the industry is roughly equal, however men tend to rise to the top more quickly.

The career growth of many women is impacted by their wide scope of responsibilities mainly outside of their working hours. Women are by nature care givers and are always expected and would naturally feel and become responsible for taking care of their kids, spouse, parents, etc. Ensuring that such women, who did not get the chance to maintain the same pace of growth as their male counterparts, have an opportunity to grow whenever they are ready is key. Having said that, one of the key factors to enable career growth is education and professional development. At the DIFC Academy, we work with the world’s leading education providers to ensure courses, many for free, are available which help women in financial services, supporting sectors such as legal and professional services, and other sectors contribute to the growth of the future economy. Over the past 3 years, we were able to sponsor the higher education of nine women who are on their way to become future leaders.

Education is just the starting point.

Education forms part of DIFC’s broader Innovation Hub proposition. Another component is DIFC’s FinTech Hive where there is an exclusive programme for young women in the finance industry called AccelerateHer. The programme aims to equip youthful, aspiring executives with the necessary tools and experience to broaden their knowledge and reach in the industry and play a more active role in shaping the future of the financial landscape.

Programmes such as AccelerateHer are important, especially when you consider the low number of senior women working in the finance and tech industry. For example, in Venture Capital firms globally, only 4.9 per cent of partners are female. In Private Equity, less than 10 per cent of senior roles are held by women.

DIFC’s Employment Law is also the most advanced in the region when it comes to valuing and protecting the contribution of individuals promoting diversity and inclusion.

At the DIFC Authority, we lead by example when encouraging our clients, who make up the leading global financial centre in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region to value equality and inclusivity. Women have strong representation on our management team and over 60 per cent of DIFC Authority staff are female. Compared to some other leading global financial centres women are well represented here. Approximately 33 per cent of women are female, however we hope our initiatives and ambitions will result in these numbers increasing. Higher female representation in the DIFC workforce will provide a tremendous potential pipeline for board positions being filled using talent from the Centre.

This International Women’s Day, we can celebrate the progress we have made in the UAE and our finance industry. However, we must continue to provide more opportunities which empower women and break the bias.