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WOMEN ON BOARDS IN THE GCC: NOT A PRIORITY TO BUSINESS LEADERS

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WOMEN ON BOARDS IN THE GCC: NOT A PRIORITY TO BUSINESS LEADERS

New Deloitte and 30% Club GCC study shares what GCC business executives really think

With businesses in the GCC facing pressing challenges, including oil prices, the issue of gender balance at board level is not a priority in the present climate. This and other revelations are among the findings of a study released today entitled View from the top: What business executives really think about women leaders in the GCC. The report is the culmination of an in depth interviews study conducted in collaboration between Deloitte and 30% Club GCC. A diverse sample of c-suite business leaders across the GCC countries, both male and female, nationals and expatriates, from the public and private sectors, participated in the study.

“It was important for us to have been inclusive in the study from which findings were then extracted,” said Rana Ghandour Salhab, partner, member of the board of Deloitte in the Middle East. “We are pleased to see that business leaders believe women participation in leadership positions is critical to the wellbeing of companies and organizations in the region, yet the more in depth findings around quotas, board priorities and cultural challenges beg further dialogue that should lead to action.”

In addition to looking at the topic of women’s representation on boards in the GCC, the report presents findings from participants on issues such as whether implementing a quota system to achieve gender balance would be effective, what kinds of barriers or bias exist to prevent women from achieving executive positions, and whether a cultural shift is taking place in the region that is changing the dynamics of women’s progression to senior roles.

“The report is a useful tool to highlight many of the talking points that are relevant to the mission and work of the 30% Club GCC,” said Raeda Al Sarayreh, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, CH2M MENAI. “The consensus is that there is plenty of female talent out there, but that we need to help this talent rise up to the challenge and grasp the opportunities. At the same time businesses need to be aware of the issues that are preventing women in their rise to the top and be strategic in how they can tackle these issues.”

Although individual examples of best practice among companies in terms of achieving gender balance were generally thought to be lacking in the region, study participants were able to identify more easily specific countries that were setting an example and making progress in terms of women’s advancement. Of these the UAE emerged as the most noted for the commitment of its leadership to women’s advancement, and its government was perceived by respondents to be working hard on this issue.

Participating leaders in the study were also asked to look to the future to gauge anticipated progress toward greater gender balance at leadership level. With the majority predicting only a small increase in women’s board membership in the coming years, the report ends with questions around which further dialogue can be initiated to ensure targeted and effective action is taken.

To access the full report, visit http://www.deloitte.com/viewfromthetop or http://30percentclub.org/assets/uploads/Deloitte_and_30__Club_Study_-_View_from_the_top_(2).pdf

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Neglecting women to tackle COVID-19 is a losing business plan, firms told

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Neglecting women to tackle COVID-19 is a losing business plan, firms told 1

By Sonia Elks

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Companies need female employees to help them bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic and must not let gender equality slip off their agenda due to the tough business climate, a virtual meeting of global figures heard on Monday.

Women have been hit hard by the pandemic’s economic impact, with the International Labour Organization warning last year that COVID-19 threatened to wipe out “modest progress” on workplace in equality in recent decades.

Business leaders, campaigners and politicians told Monday’s online meeting organised by the World Economic Forum that women risk losing hard-won gains at work.

“I have heard many organisations are saying ‘Well, we have so many important issues that diversity really isn’t something we can focus on right now’,” said Laura Liswood, secretary-general at the Council of Women World Leaders.

“That’s just the opposite of the truth, because in a crisis time you need the most creative ideas and the most differing experiences and perspective, which is what diversity provides.”

The disparity is partly because women are more likely to have insecure jobs, while many have also struggled to balance employment with extra caring responsibilities and home-schooling.

Too often their needs are being put last in pandemic response strategies, women leaders told the meeting.

“In crisis, the gender perspective is unfortunately often the first thing to be disregarded,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

There is “lots of willingness” among businesses to tackle gender inequalities but not always enough attention to setting and tracking targets on hiring, promotions and fair pay, said Martine Ferland, chief executive at consulting fund Mercer.

Meanwhile, Liswood said she had come to back the idea of quotas for women in politics and business alike, to ensure that women have a “seat at the table” to influence decisions.

Panel members said governments, business and civil society groups must work together to promote equity in the recovery, with stimulus measures offering a chance to rebalance the scales.

“We will pay great attention on the respect of gender parity in the implementation of our national recovery plan,” said Elisabeth Moreno, French minister for gender equality.

“It is extremely important that women are not left behind in these times of pandemic – there is no better time to involve women in the labour market.”

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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China’s Xi calls for greater role for G20 in economic governance

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China's Xi calls for greater role for G20 in economic governance 2

(Reuters) – China’s President Xi Jinping on Monday called on the world to strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination and bolster the role of the G20 in global economic governance as he pointed to a “rather shaky” recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum – a gathering usually held in a Swiss ski resort – Xi said the global economic outlook remained uncertain and public health emergencies “may very well recur” in future.

Xi, making his first appearance at the forum since his vigorous defence of free trade and globalisation in an address in Davos in 2017, struck a similar tone this time around, advocating multilateralism as the way out of current challenges in a roughly 25-minute speech. [https://tinyurl.com/y3akbv4l]

“We should build an open world economy … discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules and systems, and take down barriers to trade, investment and technological exchanges,” he said.

The G20 – an international forum grouping 19 of the biggest developed and emerging economies, plus the European Union – should be strengthened as the “main forum for global economic governance” and the world should “engage in closer macro-economic policy coordination”, Xi added.

China itself would more actively participate in global economic governance, he said.

China’s GDP grew by 2.3% in 2020, according to official data released last week. That was its lowest annual growth rate in more than four decades but still made China the only major economy to avoid a contraction last year as many nations struggled to contain the pandemic.

International governance should be based on rules and consensus, instead of on orders given by one or the few, Xi added, without naming any countries.

“The world is undergoing changes unseen in a century, and now is the time for major development and major transformation,” he said.

Xi’s speech came just five days after Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. president.

Under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, tensions simmered between the United States and China, the world’s top two economies, on issues ranging from trade and technology to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the coronavirus.

(Reporting by Meg Shen and Tom Daly; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alex Richardson)

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ECB focuses on bank credit, bonds in gauging financing conditions – Lane

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ECB focuses on bank credit, bonds in gauging financing conditions - Lane 3

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank primarily focuses on bank credit conditions and bond yields when assessing if financing conditions are favourable, ECB Chief Economist Philip Lane said on Monday, fleshing out key conditions for setting stimulus.

ECB President Christine Lagarde renewed a commitment to maintaining “favourable” financing conditions last week but did not detail how these conditions would be measured and sources close to the discussion said policymakers could not agree on which gauges to focus on.

“Naturally, the focus on credit conditions in the banking system on the one side and the bond markets on the other is consistent with the main methods used by central banks in steering financing conditions,” Lane said.

Policymakers will revisit the issue at their March meeting in a potentially critical seminar that could determine how the ECB spends its 1 trillion euros of remaining firepower in its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Scheme (PEPP).

But some policymakers are critical of putting too much emphasis on government bond spreads as that could reduce the incentive for good fiscal policy and may be seen as exceeding the bank’s inflation-fighting mandate.

“The ECB routinely looks at a wide range of measures … with a prominent focus on the conditions facing customers who depend on bank-intermediated credit, as well as the conditions facing sectors which seek to obtain funding in bond markets,” he added.

Lane added that any premature steepening of the yield curve would work against the ECB’s efforts to counter the shock of the pandemic.

In a speech consistent with Lagarde’s policy statement, Lane repeated that the ECB will not necessarily spend all of its remaining bond purchase firepower while reserving the right to increase spending, if market conditions worsen.

“If favourable financing conditions can be maintained with asset purchase flows that do not exhaust the envelope over the net purchase horizon of the PEPP, the envelope need not be used in full,” Lane said.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Francesco Canepa and Catherine Evans)

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