A number of women have called to include more women in the board of family companies. Up till now the participation of women in these companies in Saudi Arabia do not exceed 5 percent.
According to Maha Fitaihi, a board member at Fitaihi Holding Company, the family businesses constitute 95 percent of private businesses in the Kingdom, taking over 25 percent of the market value with a total of SR350 billion.
Noting that females constitute 49 percent of the population, only 15 percent of which are working, Fitaihi said the high unemployment rate can be reduced by employing women in different departments of family businesses.
She added that the presence of women in family businesses and raising their effective role can happen only if the founder of the business is believing in the role of women in running the business. Further to that, the culture of eliminating the role of the women in business could be changed through education.
Fitaihi called on setting a quota for women to be able to be present at boards of family corporations as well as playing an effective role in these companies.
She was speaking at a session moderated by Fatin Al-Yafi, Senior Executive Director at Safola. The session devoted for woman participation in family businesses is part of a three-day event entitled the “Family Corporate Governance Forum”
Fitaihi noted that the fourth generation in every family business is characterized by becoming careless about the business and are spending more cash on entertainment. Therefore, she recommended that children between the age of 12 and 16 should be given tasks at their family companies to be able to learn at early stage.
Among the main reasons behind the success of family businesses is the diversification of the experiences by including women and also the trustworthy experts, said Nashwa Tahir, chairman of the board of Alsiraj United Holding. “We are not talking here about equality between men and women, rather we are talking about justice.” Women own segments of family businesses and have the right to manage them. She described those against the participation of women as having “psychic disorders.”
To pave the way for women to become effective members in family businesses, equality should be provided at home when first raising children. Further to that, the same education opportunities must be given to children regardless of their gender, said Tahir.
Sarah Bugdadi, a businesswoman and a specialist in strategic communication and public relations, called on the creation of a mentorship program that can provide online training and consultations to members of family businesses. Intensive courses, she said, must be given to board members and businesswomen. She added each chamber of commerce in Saudi Arabia must have a center for family companies.
A comment from the female section said the courts still receive number of disputes regarding family businesses where women are being asked by men in their families to give away their shares in return of specified amounts. The woman raising the point noted that women must be advised and educated so as not to give away their fortune by force or out of ignorance.
Bugdadi said some women tend to give away their fortunes because they are not aware of the nature of the business and prefer to start their new businesses in a field of their choice, therefore they do this after agreeing on getting in a specific amount.
The JCCI, she added, has Tawfiq Center which looks into these cases and tend to evaluate the fortune and divide it among the family members, “by consulting the center the woman will be reassured that she is getting her right.”
Responding to a man who recommended that women should devote their time to raise children and take care of the home and leave the work and labor to men, Fitaihi said: “We agree that the first role of a woman is her house and children, but we shall also take into consideration to condition of the Khadija bint Kouwilid – wife of prophet Mohammad – who was running here own business.” She added that women here are standing in their businesses and wealth side by side with their fathers and other members of the family.
Another comment from the men section raised that the participation of women in leading positions at companies should be achieved through “force.” However Tahir objected to that, saying stating that it will only increase the number of disputes and added, “the participation of women shall be based on agreement other board members.”