ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Women Shariah scholars see gender gap closing
Malaysia's Shariah Advisory Council appointed a second female scholar to its 11-member board in November. Indonesia has six women on its panel of 35 experts, Ma'ruf Amin, chairman of the country's National Shariah Council, said in an interview on Thursday.
Malaysia's central bank and the securities commission are both headed by women, while Liza Mohd Noor is CEO at RAM Rating Services, which provides ratings for Islamic bonds.
"Previously, it was difficult for women to enter the industry. Now people have broken that boundary, especially in Malaysia," Aznan Hasan, associate professor at the Kuala Lumpur-based International Islamic University Malaysia, said on Dec. 20. "More women are coming in, and this is good because we need people."
Encouraging women to work in Islamic finance will help meet demand for experts in an industry the Islamic Financial Services Board estimates has been growing 20 percent annually since 2000, with assets exceeding $1 trillion.
About 50,000 professionals will be needed globally over the next five to seven years to meet demand, Ishaq Bhatti, director of Melbourne-based La Trobe University's Islamic banking and finance program, said on December 10.
While men tend to dominate executive positions in Indonesia, women are making inroads. Eka B. Danuwirana, head of human capital at Bank Syariah Mandiri, said there were four female division heads out of 26 total divisions at the bank.
"But there has been a significant increase in female top executive promotions," Eka said. "Based on performance levels in 2010, one of our best branches is led by a female."
U. Saefudin Noer, senior vice president and head of Shariah banking at CIMB Niaga Syariah, said his bank had five female branch heads among 22 branch offices. That is up from 2009, when two women held such positions.
The lack of prominent female banking executives stems from "history, culture and perceptions of women," said Nida Raza, senior vice president of capital markets at Unicorn Investment Bank BSC in Manama, Bahrain.
"This will have a knock-on effect on" the Middle East, Raza said. That "may lead to a rise in women in the Islamic finance industry," she said.
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