Shaikha Al-Bahar, Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer at the National Bank of Kuwait, participated as a keynote speaker at the “Women’s Empowerment Principles Conference – Kuwait” held yesterday by the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development (GSSCPD), Kuwait University Women’s Studies and Research Center (WSRC), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Al-Bahar participated alongside an affluent group of leaders and decision makers including: Mariam Al-Aqeal Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Lubna Al-Kazi Head of WRSC Kuwait University, and Khaled Mahdi Secretary-General of the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council.
In her speech at the conference held this year under the theme “Translating Principles into Practices”, Al-Bahar talked about how the Kuwaiti women’s leadership in the business sector has been declining, as she discussed the main reasons behind that and reviewed some of the key mechanisms by which Kuwaiti women may be empowered on the economic front, as well as establishing women leadership within the business sector in an appropriate manner that matches their achievements within the educational, political and social rights fields.
Al-Bahar heighted the qualitative leaps achieved by Kuwaiti women in obtaining all their rights in getting access to education, workplace and political participation, emphasizing their success in gaining various rights compared to other countries across the region. The latest data published by international organizations shows leading figures in favor of females when it comes to their enrollment in different levels of education, reaching up to 87% in primary level and 89% in secondary level of education compared to 83% for male enrollment.
Al-Bahar also stressed on Kuwaiti women’s success in climbing the career ladder to affirm their prominent position in the business sector.
Al-Bahar pointed out that the main problem was professional level disparities. Despite the Kuwaiti woman’s success in obtaining her civil rights and the great leap she managed to achieve in education attainment, Kuwait ranks 126th in the Global Gender Gap report, reflecting a significant decline in Kuwaiti women empowerment. Regardless of their superior educational level, women still represent only 13.6% of the legal, legislative and senior management positions.
Al-Bahar also emphasized the importance of continually striving to raise the level of education while ensuring that educational attainment received by women is geared towards preparing them for labor market, pointing out the need for women to enter into fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in addition to humanities and arts.
Al-Bahar explained that the Kuwaiti public sector still presents the main employment destination to Kuwaitis as it offers substantial benefits when compared to the private sector’s job offering. She also stressed that the government needs to develop the private sector’s role and its participation in the Kuwaiti economy so that it may attract and employ job seekers, resulting in turn in women empowerment due to the gender equality in the private sector which is more pronounced than in the public sector.
Al-Bahar pointed out that the wide disparities in wages and compensation between male and female employees is one of the key obstacles that presents itself against women empowerment on the economic front, especially in the public sector, where female employees receive 28% lower wages than male employees, stressing the need to eliminate such gaps in order to encourage women to get back in the work force and excel.
Al-Bahar concluded by appealing to all leaders to overcome the barriers facing women empowerment in order to help provide a better working environment and improve the current systems and regulatory and operational frameworks, confirming her full trust and optimism in achieving those goals in no time in line with the martial efforts exerted by all governmental and civil institutions.