For the fifth consecutive year, the closing bell at Boursa Kuwait rang in support of women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8 of every year. The bell-ringing ceremony aims to raise awareness of the empowerment of women financially, specifically in the private sector, as well as highlighting the key role the sector plays in support of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The events also aim to raise awareness of these principles to improve sustainable practices and operations and encourage their adoption, as well as increase the transparency of women’s empowerment principles.
This year, according to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) chose the theme of “Women’s Empowerment today for a sustainable tomorrow”, which recognizes and celebrates the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge to build a more sustainable future for all.
The event took place in the context of Kuwait’s efforts to develop and empower women’s capabilities to contribute to Kuwait’s development goals and participate in the decision-making process, in line with the pillars of the Kuwait National Development Plan (KNDP) and the “New Kuwait 2035” vision.
The event was organized by Boursa Kuwait with the participation of the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development, the Regional Office of UN Women and the United Nations Development Program in Kuwait and involved the participation of the National Bank of Kuwait and Zain in a panel discussion.
Boursa Kuwait claims that it is committed to raising awareness of the women’s empowerment principles and implementing the WEPs, and this initiative is part of the company’s efforts to create a lasting meaningful impact on the community where it operates as part of its Corporate Sustainability strategy, in line with Goal 5 – Gender Equality – and Goal 17 – Partnership for the Goals – of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Boursa Kuwait also formally made a commitment to women’s empowerment when it signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) in 2019. Launched in 2010 by UN Women and the UN Global Compact, the WEPs are a set of seven principles offering practical guidance to businesses on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace, and community, thereby bringing significant benefits to companies and societies.
Speaking at the ceremony, Boursa Kuwait’s Head of Markets Noura Al-Abdulkareem stated, “We ring the bell for women today in celebration of the key role they play in development, specifically in capital markets and at Boursa Kuwait. We remain committed to the training and development of our female workforce and look forward to providing equal opportunities for women throughout our company and the wider capital market.”
Al-Abdulkareem added, “Boursa Kuwait joins organizations from all over the world to commemorate this day, proving our commitment to the WEPs and supporting listed companies to empower their female workforce and their inclusion and contributions in senior positions. We also continue to encourage listed companies to take action in support of sustainable development, as well as their valiant efforts to increase the transparency of women’s empowerment principles and practices.”
Among the organizations participating in the bell ringing ceremony are the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative (SSE), the UN Global Compact, UN Women, International Finance Corporation: IFC, and World Federation of Exchanges (the “Global Partners”). It is expected that over 120 exchanges, including Boursa Kuwait, will ring the bell this year as part of their commitment to women’s empowerment. Furthermore, the number of exchanges that have signed the WEPs is up to 25, which is a marked increase from the 10 in 2019.
The exchanges are also working to scale up their actions on women’s empowerment by promoting transparency of relevant metrics, organizing training on board diversity, and encouraging their listed companies to sign the WEPs.
Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development Dr. Khaled Mahdi stated that the government of the State of Kuwait is committed to the continuous support for the principles of empowering women, which is in line with the pillars of the KNDP and the “New Kuwait 2035” vision and aligned with the fifth goal of the United Nations’ SDGs. As part of the KNDP goals, the government of Kuwait is targeting to have 35% of its decision-makers be women, who at present only represent 21% of the senior positions in the public sector.
Dr. Mahdi also hailed the private sector and its commitment to employing women and providing training and development opportunities as well as giving them the opportunity to assume leadership positions and participate in the decision-making process, in support of the WEPs and towards achieving sustainable development goals.
The Secretary-General also considered this initiative a symbol of integrating women into the national economy and an appreciation of the importance of this partnership, claiming that it is proof of the national development plan’s policies and pillars to promote social and economic integration at all levels.
Dr. Mahdi also said that the General Secretariat is one of key the entities supporting the empowerment of women in Kuwait, with the establishment of its Women and Business Affairs Committee, adding that the percentage of women working in the General Secretariat exceeds 80% of its total workforce. He also added that the private sector is increasingly cognizant of the fact that empowering women results in higher productivity and attracts more clients.
Speaking on behalf of UN Women, Regional Director for the Arab States Ms. Susanne Mikhail stated, “Our partnership with Kuwait has to date facilitated access by around 50 companies to knowledge and tools on how to increase women’s participation, through a commitment to the Women’s Empowerment Principles. I congratulate each and every signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles for their pledge to advance women’s leadership at all levels and invite all members of the Kuwaiti private sector to consider signing the WEPs statement of support today.”
Hideko Hadzialic, Resident Representative, UNDP Kuwait also spoke during the event, saying, “Empirical evidence suggests that empowerment of women in enterprises and corporate governance significantly improves productivity and business outcomes. We are delighted to see more and more Kuwaiti companies signing up for the WEPs and learning good practices from each other.”
Deputy Group CEO of National Bank of Kuwait Ms. Shaikha Al-Bahar stated: “International Women’s Day this year is an important occasion to highlight inspiring female role models and the key role played by women in continuing to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Al-Bahar emphasized that the call for gender equality aims to ensure a sustainable future, as the promotion of gender equality is one of the major global challenges of the 21st century.
“The representation of women at all levels of decision-making around the world needs more efforts to reach the desired level,” she said, noting that there are examples of women who led the way to change and contributed to building and progressing their communities, a fact that motivates new generations of women to strive to participate in achieving prosperity for their countries.
“The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) has long held a firm belief that diversity is a source of strength and a competitive advantage for any organization, as a diverse workforce understands customers better and is able to provide more creative and innovative solutions,” Al-Bahar added.
NBK’s Deputy Group CEO also noted that the bank’s employee composition ratios reflect its commitment to gender equality, as females constitute 45% of total employees, and women in leadership and supervisory positions represent 30% of the total workforce.
In addition, NBK is committed to promoting gender equality as a key element in managing talent development by taking various measures to ensure the participation of women in leadership positions, providing mentoring and appropriate opportunities for their career development, as well as promoting the culture of women empowerment across the entire group.
Al-Bahar added that NBK’s commitment to gender diversity and inclusion extends to cover customers by launching products and services targeting female customers and entrepreneurs, while continuing to advance its strides in this area, in line with its commitment to promote financial inclusion.
Mrs. Eaman Al Roudhan, Chief Executive Officer of Zain Kuwait stated: “I’m very proud that Zain is once again joining forces with our community partners at Boursa Kuwait, Supreme Council for Planning and Development, Women’s Research and Studies Center, as well as global partners at UNDP and UN Women. This collaboration will surely contribute to shedding light on the great efforts exerted by the State of Kuwait to empower women and girls.”
Al Roudhan added: “At Zain, we are well aware of the importance of the United Nations’ Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs), and perhaps the best reflection of our commitment is the fact that Zain was the first company from the Kuwaiti private sector to officially join this initiative years ago. During this period, we have taken a big step to develop a clear roadmap that outlines many vital pillars that are well aligned with these principles.”
Al Roudhan explained: “Across the past years, our efforts included creating new policies that reduce the gender gap within the workplace, implement flexible hours for mothers, provide a fair work environment where our female employees take on leadership positions. In addition, we have supported many education programs that encouraged girls to pursue careers in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).”
Al Roudhan continued: “One of our recent success stories in this scope was concluding Zain Great Idea 6, the sixth edition of our renowned tech startups accelerator program, which has empowered, trained, and invested in over 1,500 passionate Kuwaiti and Arab young men and women throughout the past decade. Not only that, but ZGI 6 has seen the highest-ever turnout of female entrepreneurs in the program’s history.”
Al Roudhan added: “With Kuwait’s accelerating approach towards digital transformation, I believe women have growing opportunities to take part in the private sector. This, however, depends on the role of the government in activating and developing the private sector’s participation first and then supporting women’s empowerment. Developing women empowerment within the private sector relies on the government’s adoption of the private sector’s role in achieving digital transformation.”
Al Roudhan concluded: “Zain continues to actively participate in the various local and regional programs to contribute to achieving the nation’s sustainable goals, most importantly women empowerment efforts. We strive to be present at initiatives that serve international sustainable goals and help elevate the region’s part on the global scene. All of these efforts are well aligned with our own sustainability targets at Zain Kuwait and across Zain Group.”
Dr. Lubna Al-Kazi, Head of the Center for Women’s Studies and Research at the College of Social Sciences at Kuwait University, expressed her happiness on the occasion of ringing the bell for women’s empowerment for the fifth year in a row, highlighting Boursa Kuwait as one of the private sector entities that signed the WEPs, adding that the ceremony confirms the private sector’s support for women’s empowerment and their belief that integrating and involving women in all areas of economic development is the only way to achieve real progress.
Al-Kazi added, “Kuwaiti women graduated from various fields, including science and technology, with graduation rates superior to their male peers, and benefit from this human capital is a smart and logical investment decision. They have become leaders in banks, the oil sector as well as the fields of technology and communications. Furthermore, the percentage of women who have joined the private sector is constantly increasing, and they must be given the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process and climb the corporate ladder. In the 21st century, it is unreasonable for women not to participate in the labor market to achieve the goals of the “New Kuwait 2035” vision.”
Boursa Kuwait is a champion of women’s empowerment and is a true pioneer in the inclusion of women in the workforce. The company has been involved in several initiatives dedicated to empowerment and inclusion, which began when the company first rang the bell for women in 2018. Boursa Kuwait also signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) ‘Statement of Support in 2019 and made a formal commitment to drive Corporate Sustainability in financial markets by becoming a member of the United Nations-led Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative, a platform for the exchange of experience and knowledge that helps broaden the collaborations between exchanges and all market participants, in 2017.
Boursa Kuwait’s Corporate Sustainability strategy stipulates ensuring initiatives apply and fall in line with the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR), industry best practice standards, and investor expectations, creating strong and sustainable partnerships that ultimately achieve success and allow Boursa Kuwait to leverage the capabilities and strengths of other companies or organizations that have experience in different fields, and integrating sustainability efforts with the company culture, in order to achieve longevity and an ongoing impact that is carried on and instilled in the day-to-day operations of the stock exchange.
As part of the strategy, Boursa Kuwait has launched many initiatives in partnership with local and international organizations, focusing on support for nongovernmental organizations and charity programs, financial literacy and capital market awareness, the empowerment of women, as well as environmental protection.
Press Release received on Mail