News Column

EDITOR'S LETTER

May 18, 2014



Our cover this issue proudly features the Burka Avenger, a superhero born in Pakistan who defends women's right to an education. However, in the biggest Islamic finance markets, access to education doesn't seem to be the problem. Even in Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, vote or be seen in public without a male relative, women make up half of university graduates. Sadly, this is not translating into career progression, with women accounting for a mere 1.5 per cent of board seats in the GCC. Cultural prejudices continue to hold women back, and this is especially prevalent in the Middle East. It seems the Islamic finance industry needs its own Burka Avenger. Women may not need a hero to protect their right to work, but they do need strong role models. And, because more women will not naturally float to the top if one manages to buck the trend, men and women managers need to fight for a shift in corporate culture. Ironically, Islamic finance seems the perfect place to start. It promises fairness, inclusiveness and shuns the sort of excessive risk that has often deterred women from entering conventional banking. It also needs human capital, and cannot afford to exclude half the talent pool, especially as numerous studies show financial companies with gender equal boards outperform. If Islamic finance wants to show it is a cut above conventional, fighting for gender equality is the best thing it can do.


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Source: Islamic Business & Finance


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