More than half of women in Mena rate investment knowledge as low, UBS says

Women’s wealth in the Middle East is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2023

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More than half (54 per cent) of women in the Middle East and North Africa rate their knowledge of investments as low even as their wealth continues to rise exponentially in the region, a study by Swiss banking group UBS has found.

About four in 10 women (38 per cent) in the region rated their investment knowledge as medium, while only 7.5 per cent ranked it highly, the Women and Investing in Mena report said.

The survey was carried out by UBS in collaboration with Women in Business Arabia.

There is an opportunity to encourage the understanding of investments among women in the Middle East, with 62 per cent of those polled seeking to become more active investors, according to the report, which polled more than 600 women in the Mena region.

Women’s wealth in the Middle East was valued at $786 billion in 2020 and is estimated to grow at a 9 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach $1 trillion by 2023, the report said, citing Boston Consulting Group.

“There is a need for conversation, education, and systemic support for women in the Mena region to better engage in discussions around finance, investment, and entrepreneurship,” said Emma Wheeler, head of women’s wealth at UBS Global Wealth Management.

“The industry needs to make strides with clear intentions, mentorship, encouragement and continuity to help improve the accessibility of information and unlock the economic opportunities that diversity and inclusion bring to all.”

Currently, women control 32 per cent of the world’s wealth, according to BCG research.

This will rise at a CAGR of 5.7 per cent to reach $97 trillion by 2024, the consultancy estimated.

However, financial disparities continue to grow between genders. Before the pandemic, the World Economic Forum estimated that it would take 257 years for women and men to reach pay parity – a 55-year increase from 2018’s prediction of 202 years.

A 10 per cent gender pay gap can lead to a 40 per cent gender wealth gap, which rises to 85 per cent for a 20 per cent gender pay gap, according to previous UBS research.

Meanwhile, 55 per cent of women in the Mena region rated their knowledge of personal finance, including the concept of day-to-day budgeting, as medium, compared with 28 per cent who rated it “high”, the UBS report showed.

Only 29 per cent of respondents ranked their experience with financial information as high, while 53 per cent rated it as medium, it added.

Women’s level of experience with financial information is highest in the UAE and lowest in Syria, the results found.

Nearly half (47.8 per cent) of women in Mena rated their experience in investment information as low, while 42 per cent ranked it as medium and 10 per cent rated it to be high, according to the UBS report.

Seven in 10 women in the region also rated their experience with investment instruments, such as stocks and bonds, as low, while a quarter rated it as medium and only 4.5 per cent ranked it to be high, the report said.

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UBS highlighted the need for early education and financial literacy as they play a critical role in the long-term viability of a woman’s success in business.

Societal and cultural norms are still barriers to unleashing women’s potential in day-to-day business, particularly for family businesses, the bank said.

“Achieving sustainable impact requires changes in attitudes and approach as women work across industries and cultures,” it added.

“Unleashing this impact involves understanding the cultural needs, barriers and prospects of both women with wealth that requires management and those seeking to create it.”

The report cited economic means (financial ability and wealth) and economic education (financial knowledge and confidence) as key drivers of economic empowerment among women.

UBS also said there was a need to invest with gender in consideration, so that finance becomes a tool to promote gender equality.

“A gender lens can be applied by considering women-owned businesses, companies employing women across all tiers as well as companies offering products and services that benefit women,” it said.

Updated: September 27, 2023, 3:00 AM