Sharkas: The platform will help banks reach the qualifications to fill positions for them on the boards of directors.

Sharkas: The percentage of women on the boards of directors of Jordanian banks is higher than the general average in the Middle East.

Al-Salem: The “All On Board” platform comes as a national initiative of the Association of Banks in Jordan.

Al-Mahrouq: The platform reflects the banking sector’s effort to increase the presence of women in leadership positions in banks.

Aslan: The platform is important to find a critical mass of at least 30% of women on corporate boards.

Abdul Jaber: Our Jordanian women have the capabilities that enable them to advance our institutions. Our role today is to network these competencies and experiences and link them to appropriate opportunities in decision-making positions.

Under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, the Association of Banks in Jordan launched the national digital platform “All On Board” – as a national initiative of the Association – in partnership with the International Labor Organization and “Amam Ventures”, with the aim of empowering qualified women to hold senior and leadership positions in the Jordanian private sector, support their economic participation of women and enhance corporate work by increasing diversity and gender balance.

On the occasion of the launch of the platform, the Association of Banks held a ceremony attended by the delegate of Her Majesty the Queen, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Wafaa Bani Mustafa, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Adel Sharkas, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of Banks, His Excellency Bassem Al Salem, Reem Aslan from the International Labor Organization, Tamara Abdel Jaber from Amam Ventures and a number of Heads and managers of banks in the Kingdom.

Banks have made progress in adopting gender-sensitive policies and practices

The Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Adel Sharkas, affirmed the Association’s efforts to launch the “All On Board” platform, which will help banks reach a greater number of qualified women who have the experience and training necessary to occupy positions on the boards of directors in a way that helps increase gender diversity and improve gender balance.

He said that banks operating in the Kingdom have made progress in adopting gender-sensitive policies and practices, whether by hiring or retaining employees, or enhancing the culture of institutional work as well as addressing the obstacles that were preventing women from advancing to leadership positions.

Dr. Sharkas said that the Central Bank has started by itself to raise the percentage of women’s representation on the Board of Directors as its Board of Directors currently includes 3 women out of 9 members who participate in the two most important committees of the Bank.

He referred to the data of the Securities Depository Center, which shows that the percentage of women on the boards of directors of Jordanian banks is about 8% of the number of board members with the rate of nearly one woman on each bank board of directors, pointing out that this percentage is higher than the general average of banks boards of directors in the Middle East amounting to approximately 4%.

He stressed that despite the percentage of women on the boards of directors of banks in Jordan, their representation is still below the desired level.

In the same context, Dr. Sharkas announced that the Central Bank has prepared a memorandum with the aim of enabling women’s participation in the banking sector and supporting their benefit from financial services. The memorandum was sent to the Association of Banks to form a platform for dialogue in order to reach a common vision about the mechanisms through which women can be empowered to access financial and banking services and products that take into account their needs in addition to promoting women’s participation in banks’ boards of directors and senior management.

Regarding the role of the Central Bank, he emphasized that the launch of the financial inclusion strategy at the end of 2017 had a significant role in enhancing women’s access to financial services as the gender gap (the financial access gap between genders) decreased from 53% to 22%, while the strategy aimed to reduce this gap to 35% meaning that more than the target has been achieved.

He revealed that the Central Bank is currently preparing a new strategy for financial inclusion which will reflect on empowering women and enhancing their access to financial services.

He also noted that the Jordan Loan Guarantee Corporation launched in 2016 a special program to guarantee loans for women-owned or managed projects with a coverage rate of 80% with the aim of enhancing the access of these projects to financing granted by banks.

Regarding the bank accounts of women, Dr. Sharkas pointed out that the number of deposit accounts owned by women is about 1.4 million which constitute approximately 36% of the number of individual deposits, while the number of loans granted to women by banks is about 223,000 amounting to 18.5% of the number of individual loans.

In addition, he stressed the role of the Central Bank of Jordan in the field of empowering women at all levels as it launched several qualitative initiatives in this regard, the most prominent of which was directing banks to enhance women’s participation in the banking sector and support their benefit from financial and banking services and products and raise their representation in the banking sector. Women on bank boards will rise to 20% and in senior management to 25% by 2024.

There is an urgent need for female expertise and competencies

In turn, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of Banks, Dr. Bassem Al-Salem, said that the “All On Board” platform comes in light of Her Majesty’s constant keenness to promote, support and empower Jordanian women in various locations and fields explaining that this platform comes as a national initiative of ABJ. Jordan, based on its full belief that women are an essential partner for men in various locations and fields.

He pointed out that this platform also comes in light of the urgent need for women’s expertise and competencies to support the process of success and development and to provide a balanced base of gender diversity based on equal opportunities in a way that contributes to promoting growth and community development.

Al-Salem indicated that the idea of the platform came in light of the bank boards of directors witnessing the absence of an institutional reference that helps discover qualified women talents to serve on boards of directors.

He emphasized the association’s role in researching, studying, identifying the various stakeholders, building partnerships and alliances with international and local institutions in addition to mobilizing the necessary resources to implement and crystallize the idea and bring it out in a way that helps achieve the desired goals of increasing the proportion of women in boards of directors.

He stressed that this platform will continue to grow and expand to be a national one that attracts qualified women from various fields and serves companies in all economic sectors in the Kingdom.

He stressed that there is an urgent need for certain specializations and specific expertise in areas related to the work of the board of directors since this matter made the traditional search process more complex and made it difficult to find a board member who meets all the required specifications, especially women.

Al-Salem noted that all Jordanian banks follow fair procedures and rules in recruitment and polarization between the genders relying on differentiation based on the required qualifications and experience.

He said that Jordan is rich in distinguished women competencies who are qualified to occupy leadership positions, while the policies of recruitment at banks are based on gender equality which confirms that increasing the representation of women on boards of directors will only be achieved if a link is established between the two sides of the supply and demand to promote female competencies and link them with the opportunities available at banks.

The platform will not be the first initiative, but it will be followed by successive steps in the future.

On the sidelines of the ceremony, ABJ held a dialogue session, where the Director General, Dr. Maher Al-Mahrouq, confirmed that this platform reflects the banking sector’s effort to increase the percentage of women in leadership positions in banks pointing out that the rate of females working in the banking sector reaches up to 38%.

Dr. Al-Mahrouq revealed that the percentage of women depositing in banks reaches 40%, while female borrowers is 20%.

He said that this platform will not be the first initiative but will be followed by successive steps in the future indicating that women’s presence in middle and leadership positions in Jordanian banks is more than 40% confirming that banks are moving at a high pace to support the presence of women.

For her part, Tamara Abdel Jaber, CEO of Amam Ventures, said that the company is an investment fund and a consultancy that provides technical assistance for the sustainability and growth of SMEs companies with a gender lens.

She said that Amam Ventures is working with a number of its partners to qualify Jordanian women to occupy leadership and decision-making positions through the Get on Board program, which was implemented last year, and about 60 female leaders have graduated, many of whom have qualified and are now occupying positions on the boards of directors of a number of Jordanian companies and institutions.

Reem Aslan, a gender specialist and responsible for the organization’s program in Jordan for Decent Work for Women, said that “the launch of the platform is a collective national action involving stakeholders working to amend legislation of the Companies Law, the Banking Law and corporate governance instructions to build women’s capabilities as it believes in the importance of access to decision-making positions.

She added, “The platform is an important step towards enabling women to access decision-making positions, thus, increasing their weak participation in general despite the absence of national legislation in this field.

The organization hopes that the national economic sectors will take all similar steps to empower women and renews its calls for Jordan to adopt legislation and policies in line with the ILO Convention on Discrimination and Employment, 1958 (No. 111), which Jordan ratified in 1963.”

She said that the organization will help Jordan achieve sustainable development goal 5.5 on ensuring the full and effective participation of women and their equal opportunities with men in occupying leadership positions. The indicator of this goal is represented in the percentage of women in managerial positions.

The organization and its partners seek to bring about meaningful change and create a measurable impact on the empowerment and leadership of women in the boards of directors of private companies, state institutions and unions in addition to raising awareness of gender-based diversity at the legislative level, encouraging the private sector to adopt gender equality policies diversity; engaging directly with the banking sector to change perceptions and practices; building the capacities of women in leadership positions.

Addressing the low representation of women in boards of directors.

The ILO is also making efforts, in partnership with the Association of Women in Decision-Making Positions, a local non-governmental organization, to address the low representation of women on boards of directors and in decision-making positions in the public and private sectors.

These efforts are currently focused on lobbying for legislative amendments including governance instructions for listed joint stock companies in order to introduce a quota system that ensures that the board of directors includes at least 30% of both genders.

These endeavors resulted in fruitful visions that benefited the Royal Committee to modernize the political system, which proposed legislative amendments that require the application of the mentioned percentage in government institutions, private sector companies and banks in addition to professional associations and employer organizations.

The ILO works in partnership with the United Nations Women, with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway. The Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway are among the founding member states of the International Labor Organization and are key partners in promoting decent work programmes.

In 2019, an organization report surveyed nearly 13,000 companies in 70 countries and found that more than 57% of companies agreed that gender diversity initiatives improved business outcomes, and that profits increased 5% – 20% in about three-quarters of the companies which monitored and followed up gender diversity in their management.

According to the ILO report, “Women in Business and Management: A Feasibility Study for Change,” about 57% said that attracting and retaining talent has become easier. More than 54% spoke of an improvement in creativity, innovation and openness while a similar percentage said that effective inclusiveness of genders boosted the company’s reputation.

The report also concluded that increasing women’s employment, at the national level, is positively correlated with GDP growth. This conclusion is based on an analysis of data from 186 countries from 1991 – 2017.

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