Next week’s influential World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain will see a lot of interesting and highly relevant keynotes, debates and panels, but also a premiere that highlights a phenomenon not yet clearly studied in the industry: The role of women in Islamic finance and the opportunities that arise for them.
Simply Sharia Human Capital, a London-based recruitment and training center solely dedicated to Islamic finance, at the conference will unveil a report called “Women in Islamic Finance & Islamic Economy: Unlocking Talent,” one of the rare studies that actually look into roles, careers and achievements of women in the Islamic finance industry, and the job opportunities it holds for female career seekers from an educational perspective.
According to Stella Cox, managing director of DDCAP Group, a UK-based financial infrastructure service provider for Shariah-compliant financial products, and contributor to the report, there “are a number of success stories showcasing women’s excellence in the Islamic financial industry worldwide. For example, to supplement the numerous instances of women now being elevated to senior executive positions, in Malaysia and Indonesia we are witnessing an ever increasing number of female Shariah scholars appointed to the Shariah boards of banks and other financial institutions.”
Malaysia is indeed a good example for the growing presence of women at senior levels in the Islamic finance sector. Malaysian women have not only set the pace to occupy high positions in Islamic banking, but have been playing a prominent role in the overall development of the industry as well. Remarkably, it was a woman, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, who presided over Bank Negara Malaysia, Malaysia’s central bank, from 2000 to 2016, as a first in this position. And on a list of London-based ISFIRE – Islamic Finance Review, which ranks the 20 top women in Islamic finance, 15 happen to be Malaysians.
Indonesia, for its part, has many women sitting on its National Shariah Council. Other countries where Islamic finance provides a career choice for women are Pakistan and Lebanon. However, outside those countries women keep playing only small roles in Islamic banking at a level above middle management and virtually no role at all when it comes to Shariah advisory.