Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Status of Bahraini Women in the Banking and Financial Sector: Challenges and Opportunities

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Status of Bahraini Women in the Banking and Financial Sector: Challenges and Opportunities

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the last century in Bahrain, women have worked hard to challenge the myth that women have more limitations, fewer capabilities and lower performance levels than men. Despite the fact that women have improved their abilities, they are still not gaining the chance to reach managerial positions in similar numbers as their male counterparts. Women are faced with challenges in their workplaces, including gender discrimination and limited opportunities to reach senior management. Pillai et al. (2011) stated that in Bahrain they are also experiencing limited ascension in the development ladder due to the 'glass ceiling' effect.

Although there are few women in senior managerial positions in the banking and financial sector in Bahrain, there is a number of pioneering women who are rising to senior positions currently. However, many studies illustrate that due to the mix of cultural and organizational obstacles, it is difficult for women to reach senior levels of management in this sector. Beagrie (2013) stated that traditional financial institutions declare that they operate a fair promotion process and added that "It seems though that in certain sectors, the old adage it's who you know and not what you know still dictates some upward moves". Until now, women remain underrepresented at senior levels within the UK, specifically in the financial sector. Mayson (2015) studied why insufficient numbers of women are being promoted to senior level management positions in the financial and banking sector, and he recognized the challenges that women faced. Only nine out of 212 of senior level management executives in investment banking are women. About 80% (60% women) of banking sector employees believe a 'glass ceiling' exists and there are barriers to promotions of women in this sector, whereas about 70% (42% women) agree that the institutions should do more to ensure gender equity at all levels.

Nevertheless, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, women are considered a significant component of the workforce in every industry. However, there are currently very few members at the board level, particularly in the financial and banking sector. This is considered the norm and a natural phenomenon in the Kingdom (Al-Alawi, 2015).

The Kingdom of Bahrain has given high priority to having women in various fields and sectors of the labor market. Bahraini women have proved that they were able to take important and leading roles in the various sectors of the labor market. Bahraini women deserve to gain access to leadership positions in institutions. In addition, they have accomplished many achievements in each sector, including the financial and banking sector. Bahraini women have engaged in this vital sector for more than 50 years, and data shows that more than 14,600 Bahraini people have been working in this sector. Bahraini women constitute about 37% of the Bahraini workforce, where most of them are classified under mid-level administrative positions (CBB, 2015; SIO, 2015). It is precisely this point wherein lies the challenge of how to strengthen the proportion of women in senior management positions within the financial and banking sector, as it is the case in many countries around the world.

This study addresses the analytical description of the reality of Bahraini women in the financial and banking sector. The paper identifies the challenges in opportunity, and the extent of the impact on work in this sector. Results are followed by recommendations that will help in improving and enhancing the situation of Bahraini women in the financial and banking sector. The study investigated the following:

1. The current status of Bahraini women in the financial and banking sector, by identifying the scale of its presence, roles and positions they hold, the effect of their presence in leadership positions and their representation in the boards of directors in the financial and banking sector. …

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