Egypt’s glass ceiling isn’t getting much better, and might be getting worse.
“One woman is a token, two is a presence, three is a voice,” goes the defining mantra of the Women on Boards Observatory, a consortium founded by the American University in Cairo in 2017, advocating for greater female representation in Egypt’s businesses.
In addition to their Board-Ready Women Database and Board Placement Service, the consortium publishes an annual monitoring report, which shows that in 2019, there weren’t nearly enough women at the top of Egypt’s big businesses, with state-owned firms in fact slipping backwards.
Overall, women occupied only 10% of the 5,707 board member positions in Egypt. 53.6% of EGX-listed Egyptian companies didn’t have a single woman on their board, while only 6% had 3 or more women, the figure that research suggests normalises the presence and voice of women on boards.
Public enterprise seems to be the worst culprit, with 73% of boards having no female representation at all. The banking sector, however, might be paving the way forward, increasing the percentage of female board members from 11.4% to 14.8%, and cutting the number of all-male boards from 41.2% to a quarter.
In partnership with different governmental and international entities – including the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, the Central Bank of Egypt, the National Council for Women, UN Women, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – it advocates for a 30% presence of women on boards in Egypt by 2030. To reach that goal, 113 qualified women need to join boards every year.
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