Compulsory Female Director in UAE Listed Companies

No economy can achieve its full potential unless both men and women are actively involved. Women, who make up almost half of the world’s population, play an equal role in stimulating economic growth. Despite recent improvements, women still face laws and policies that limit their economic opportunities around the world.

Encouragement of women in leadership positions can be a sensitive matter, especially in a province where male-dominated sectors like oil and gas have controlled the economy. With the advent of progressive women empowerment programs and more women working in senior and executive positions, this has begun to shift in recent years.

Women’s participation in decision-making roles in the UAE has improved significantly. As a result of this approach, the country has been the first in the region to enact formal legislation mandating female representation on boards of directors.

Women empowerment in the UAE

Women’s empowerment is a priority for the UAE, which leverages their potential and establishes procedures and systems to ensure gender balance. Women’s empowerment has become a reality, thanks to the UAE’s efforts, which has converted the country into a regional role model. Since its establishment, the country is committed to supporting women in the workplace. When it comes to the legal system, it has a higher percentage of female lawyers than many progressive nations.

The UAE’s achievement to attain gender balance is fueled by the UAE’s leadership’s unrelenting commitment to ensure that women have equal prospects to contribute to the country’s long-term growth. The leadership allowed equal rights to women under the law and fought persistently to defend women’s liberties and rights, as well as to remove all hurdles to their growth. Their vision compelled all parties to collaborate in order to increase women’s participation in all aspects of life.

The new legislation

The United Arab Emirates is home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges. According to the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA), listed firms in the UAE must have at least one female on their board of directors. The move, which amends a prior decision by the authority’s board, is made in the light of willingness and ability to empower Emirati women and promote them to play a bigger part in the boards of directors of listed firms.

Sheikha Manal, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council, described the decision as a crucial step towards women’s empowerment in accordance with global standards. She added that the action, which is in alignment with the UAE’s leadership vision, can result in a wide range of positive outcomes, including enhanced economic growth, improved board and company performance, and greater socio-economic involvement of women.

She further added that raising women’s participation on boards of directors helps the UAE Gender Balance Council achieve its goals to eliminate the gender gap in all professions and expand women’s representation in management and decision-making roles in both the private and public sectors.

Previous regulation

The SCA had earlier set a goal for enterprises to have 20% female participation on their boards of directors, with those that did not meet this goal had to provide explanations. Previously, reasons were accepted if there was a lack of compliance, but now female representation is made mandatory.

UAE law is a blend of the greatest legal practices from all across the world. There are numerous reasons why one could face legal issues in the UAE, whether it is a business or personal matter. And when it comes to the corporate world, it is always advisable to consult a local law firm for the best possible advice.

Present status

As per Aurora50, out of the 110 listed companies in the UAE, women occupy board positions in 28 of them but account for only 3.5% of all board positions. Aurora50 is a social enterprise in the UAE that establishes a pipeline of board-experienced women and expedites their appointment by partnering them with seasoned board directors.

The Central Bank of the UAE announced a partnership with Aurora50 focused on promoting gender equality on the boards of both public and private UAE enterprises. The two organizations said they will boost the flow of information and establish a strong network of female talent.

According to a blog post by the World Bank, the UAE has the highest percentage of women in the workforce, i.e. 57.5% in 2020, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

As per the Women, Business, and the Law (WBL) 2021 report, The UAE has dominated the MENA region rankings, as a result of significant legislative measures pertaining to women’s economic involvement made during the last three years. The UAE received 82.5 points out of a maximum of 100 points this year, up from 56 points and 29 points in the 2020 and 2019 reports respectively.

How Bin Eid Advocates can help?

Bin Eid Advocates provide the best legal counsel to corporate clients, spanning from family businesses, to small and medium businesses (SMEs), to multinational corporations, all from a wide range of industries. Our Dubai Corporate Lawyers have an in-depth understanding of corporate and commercial legislation and serve corporate clients to build their market presence.

Our team of competent lawyers has years of expertise in the UAE and are considered professionals with substantial knowledge and understanding of the local laws and corporate environment. Please contact us if you have any questions about corporate law, and one of our corporate lawyers will gladly assist you.


To reach the highest international standard, the UAE’s markets must be strengthened. In the United Arab Emirates, listed firms must now have at least one woman director on their boards. The initiative is the latest in a series of efforts aimed to increase female participation at the leadership of UAE businesses.

The UAE government has made gender equality and women’s economic empowerment a primary focus in recent years. When it comes to altering laws for increased women’s economic empowerment, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are the front-runners in the Middle East and North Africa region thus far. Other governments will be inspired by these measures to prioritize revising legislation to minimize gender imbalance and increase women’s economic prospects.

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