© 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited.Purpose: This study aims to investigate the moderation role of the percentage of women in the country labour force in the relationship between firm-level governance factors (board size, institutional ownership, ownership concentration, board independence, performance, firm size, firm’s risk and sector) and women on boards (WOBs) in publicly listed firms in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Design/methodology/approach: The study relied on a sample of 436 publicly listed firms in 2018 in six GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates). Findings: The study concluded that the percentage of women in the country’s labour force has a moderation role in the relationship between board size and WOB, as well as firm market performance and WOBs. However, ownership concentration, firm size, firm risk and firm sector do not affect the percentage of WOB; consequently, the percentage of women in the country’s labour force did not have a moderation role in the relationship between these variables and the percentage of WOBs. Originality/value: The study incorporates an institutional level variable which is the percentage of women in the country’s labour force in a firm-level relationship mostly understood by agency theory.