NasebaNaseba’s 10th CFO Strategies Forum MENA saw the launch of a new award to celebrate the contributions made by female finance professionals to successful businesses in the Middle East and North Africa – the ‘Women in Finance’ award.

Promoting female leadership in the finance function is relatively rare in the MENA region – despite the numerous studies showing the measurable positive impact of corporate female leadership on organisations. When Fortune 500 companies were ranked by female boardroom representation, those with sustained high representation of women on their boards outperformed the lowest quartile with an 84 percent higher return on sales and a 60 percent increase in return on invested capital.

And despite controlling 65 percent of the world’s consumer discretionary spending, to the tune of 12 trillion USD, women today are still underserved by and underrepresented in the finance sector – an imbalance that indicates that although women are participating in the financial world, they are doing so on the sidelines.  The aim of awards like ‘Women in Finance’ is to raise awareness about this imbalance and contribute to its mitigation.

The ‘Women in Finance’ award was launched by Naseba in partnership with ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) at ACCA’s Women in Finance event last week. This category is the latest addition to the Annual MENA CFO Awards, which span six other categories: ‘MENA CFO of the Year – Private sector’, ‘MENA CFO of the Year – Public sector’, ‘Revolutionary CFO of the Year’, ‘Revolutionary CEO of the Year’, ‘Financial Executive of the Year’, and ‘Finance Team of the Year’.

Sophie Le Ray, CEO Naseba, said, “Despite the massive strides that have been taken in the realm of diversity, women still only represent 22 percent of corporate leadership globally, and studies show that they are not as well positioned to leverage their networks as male peers. We aim to change this, and to promote diversity – not only for moral reasons, but because it makes sound economic sense. Highlighting the achievement of female finance professionals is yet another step in this direction, and we are pleased to be launching the Women in Finance award with ACCA.”

“Opportunity and diversity is at the heart of ACCA’s values,” said Lindsay Degouve de Nuncques, Head, ACCA Middle East. “Promoting the value of having women in senior roles in business and finance is part of our wider diversity agenda. ACCA has long campaigned for greater diversity in organisations because our research shows that businesses which encourage diversity are more successful. We explore the challenges and practical solutions and encourage our members to effect positive change as they move into leadership roles”.

The MENA CFO Strategies Forum will see a host of changes in its latest edition. Perhaps the most prominent change is the launch of an Advisory Board in order to stay closer to the industry, bring the finance community together and respond to the latest challenges. The board members include: Eyad Ramlawi, Group CFO at Al Turki Holding (Saudi Arabia), Mahmoud Al Kurdy, CFO at Banque Audi (Lebanon), Nauman Asif Mian, CFO at (UAE), and Dr. Peter Middlebrook, CEO of Geopolicity (TBA).

The Advisory Board will bring their considerable expertise to bear in shaping the future of the forum, and provide the strategic knowledge required to advance the platform’s agenda and drive impactful growth over the near term.