A CALL has gone out to create a database of highly qualified women in Bahrain as part of empowerment efforts.
A need for such a database has risen from the importance of further expanding networks when looking for qualified women to take a seat on boards of directors.
Bahrain Economic Development Board chief executive Khalid Al Rumaihi said these networks were mostly male dominated with only a few women, which needed to change.
He was speaking at a panel discussion on the role of male role models and allies in inclusion, gender diversity and empowering women in the workplace, which was held yesterday at The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain.
He was joined on the panel by Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Alzayani and Tamkeen chairman Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, while C5 Accelerate executive director Hadyah Fathalla moderated the discussion.
“What we need to do is provide a database that showcases women who have executive experience such as auditing experience, legal experience and consulting experience,” said Mr Al Rumaihi.
“If we could have women who are of that, and I know there are many, so that we are not just relying on networks we know but we’re looking at a database, then it’s going to simplify (the process).
“It’s going to allow us to expand the network of women who we can bring in, this is not based on a bias, it’s just based on who you know.
“When it comes to women our network is much smaller than men.”
He added that boards of directors usually containing eight or nine members should be comprised of no less than 50 per cent women. “If we have a database that shows us qualified women then we have an ability to pick people who have the competence and who are women,” he said.
“We’d love to see this actually built and updated because I don’t think it’s a static database but it needs to be refreshed.”
Mr Alzayani, meanwhile, highlighted the economic and social benefits of empowering women in the workplace.
“Statistically, there are more females than males in Bahrain,” he said.
“So, the more we empower women the more we give them a platform to showcase their abilities to play as contributors to our social fabric and economy, the more benefit everybody gets.
“From my experience I find women more precise than men, they are more diligent in what they do, they are more detailed and thorough, and maybe sometimes more committed and dedicated.”
He also stressed the importance of women taking a more assertive role to break the glass ceiling instead of waiting for the opportunity to be given.
“Because at the end of the day it is talent and qualification that make a difference not gender,” he added.
“If you bring quotas (for female employment) into the play you are inferring that these women are not good enough to earn it so we have to give them a special allocation, which I think is negative and in some ways demeaning.”
Shaikh Mohammed also highlighted the principle of equal opportunity – adding that “our strength is in our diversity”.
He explained that it was important to achieve a balance and that organisations should be flexible and accepting.
“We must give employees, men or women, the choice, and honest and open dialogue is more important than quotas and percentages,” he said.
“These percentages aren’t important because they change, what’s important is that women in Bahrain feel they have opportunities and they can achieve their dreams and aspirations by working towards them.”