Achieving gender balance in corporate leadership in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)


March 2019 - Globally, women’s labour force participation rates have moved closer to men’s over the past few decades, but in every country women are still less likely than men to engage in paid work. When women do work, they are more likely to work part-time, are less likely to become managers or board members, and on average they earn less than men.

Women in the MENA region remain an untapped resource for the economy. While women represent around 49% of the region’s total population, their participation in the labour force and corporate leadership positions is significantly lower. A new OECD report ‘Corporate Governance in MENA: Building a Framework for Competitiveness and Growth’ finds that despite progress, the average representation of women on the boards of the largest 142 public companies in MENA remains modest, at 4.8% of total voting board seats (60 of 1 258 seats). The survey finds that 31% of companies had at least one women board member, 24.6% had at least two and only 7% had three or more women board members. Among stock markets in the region, Morocco’s MASI exchange leads, with 11.4% women board members among its listed companies, while Saudi Arabia’s TASI falls behind, with only 0.7% women board members (Figure 1).

Women’s economic empowerment underpinned by sound corporate governance is a critical policy area that supports economic growth and competitiveness. As outlined in the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, policies to increase women’s access and participation on corporate boards and in senior management positions can be driven by governments, regulators and companies themselves, with measures adapted to specific contexts (by sector, country etc.). Policies can include quotas; reporting requirements; targets; voluntary disclosure by companies of gender composition or gender equality policies; increasing the size of a board; and actively recruiting qualified women to replace outgoing male board members. Through the MENA-OECD Working Group on Corporate Governance, the OECD continues to share experiences and lessons learnt with policy makers in MENA to improve gender balance in corporate leadership.


Further Reading

  • Corporate Governance in MENA: Building a Framework for Competitiveness and Growth, OECD (2019), OECD Publishing, Paris, forthcoming.

More data on the OECD Gender Data Portal


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