UAE aims for gender balanced economy and society

Mona Al Marri, Vice-President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and Chairperson of the Global Council for Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality). — File photo
Mona Al Marri, Vice-President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and Chairperson of the Global Council for Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality). — File photo

The UAE is ranked 24th among 170 countries and the highest regionally in the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s 2021 WPS Index.


Sandhya D'Mello

Published: Mon 7 Mar 2022, 11:46 PM

Last updated: Mon 7 Mar 2022, 11:48 PM

The UAE has been the role model of growth and development in the Arab world for women empowerment while aiming at a gender-balanced economy and society. The nation is very clearly pursuing policies to narrow down the gap in gender disparity boosting the overall growth of the UAE economy.

The UAE is ranked as a leading country in gender equality in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap report. This achievement comes from the fundamental belief that women and men are equal partners in society. Through a series of public and private sector initiatives, women are playing an increasingly stronger role in business, government, and STEM fields. Demonstrating the UAE’s progress in women’s inclusion, justice and security, the UAE is ranked 24th among 170 countries and the highest regionally in the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s 2021 WPS Index.

“We are without a doubt the regional benchmark in gender equality, as we believe strongly in the power of gender-balanced economies and societies,” said Mona Al Marri, Vice-President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and Chairperson of the Global Council for Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality)  at the opening Special Address at a knowledge sharing and networking event hosted by UPS in partnership with the Multinational Companies Business Group (MCBG), at the USA Pavilion, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Al Marri stressed that the UAE strongly believes in the strength of gender-balanced economies and societies, as is demonstrated by the government’s longstanding commitment to advancing this agenda. The UAE is now a world model for gender balance, resulting from the implementation of gender-responsive legislation including paid parental leave, equal pay for equal work law, the prohibition of gender-based discrimination in employment, and the protection of pregnant women in the workplace.

The active engagement of both the public and private sectors contributes to the future and an example of this commitment was evident at the recently announced partnership between the UAE Gender Balance Council and 17 multinational and local companies through the Pledge to Accelerate Gender Balance in the UAE Private Sector. Signatories have voluntarily committed to a target of women in 30 per cent of senior and middle management roles by 2025.

Al Marri said that gender balance has been and remains a priority since the founding of the UAE in 1971.

The UAE Gender Balance Council was established in 2015 to develop and implement the gender balance agenda in the UAE. The Council’s objectives are to reduce the gender gap across all government sectors, enhance the UAE’s ranking in global competitiveness reports on gender equality and achieve gender balance in decision-making positions, as well as promote the UAE’s status as a benchmark for gender balance legislations. The country ranked first in the Arab world and 18 globally in the Gender Equality Index (GII) by the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2020.. The UAE also topped the Mena region in the “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report issued by the World Bank, achieving 82.5 points out of 100 on the overall index, compared to 29 points in 2019, and 56 points in 2020.

Women in the UAE participate actively in the private sector in various roles. They have equal rights to economic resources, including guaranteed equal pay, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws. The UAE had the highest number of women on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen in 2020 with 23 Emirati women on the list.

Women business-owners account for 10 per cent of the total private sector in the UAE. Almost 23,000 Emirati businesswomen run projects worth over Dh50 billion, and occupy 15 per cent of the positions in the boards of chambers of commerce and industry nationwide. In 2021, the UAE Security and Commodities Authority issued a mandate that listed companies must have at least one woman on their board of directors.

Ministry of Finance’s (MOF) representation in the Gender Balance Council reflects its support for the UAE government’s commitment to gender balance within its financial and economic entities, which play important roles in economic and social development. The MOF incorporates gender balance principles in its overall strategy. MoF actively supports gender balance in the following ways: Contributed to the formation of the UAE Gender Balance Council, with an allocated Dh5 million annual budget; direct representation in the management of the Council through Younis Haji Al Khouri, Undersecretary, MoF; established an organisational grading table for federal government employees that is based on their performance and station rather than their gender; and supports and partners the Council on its projects with international financial organisations, such as the IMF, OECD and World Bank.

Women in key business sectors are celebrating this IWD 2022 with the spirit of resilience as the impact of the pandemic also compelled most to innovate to stay afloat or competitive. Siham Berrached, managing director, Emakina Qatar, said: “Being a woman in a man’s world has never really been a struggle. Despite that, it’s no secret that the majority of key decision-makers do remain to be men. However, it’s interesting to see that from a creative and emotional standpoint – there’s no denying that women bring a lot to the industry. Women tend to have a natural finesse making them more cognisant of needs. One thought I often ponder on is that a team of male engineers for instance would always benefit from having a woman present to act as the ‘glue’ in any operation.

Premier Inn — owned by Whitbread — celebrated women in hospitality this International Women’s Day with its first all-female general manager and operations manager duo in the Middle East. Pratibha Bankar and Karolin Hany, GM and OM respectively at Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport, lead more than 50 multi-national employees and welcome tens of thousands of international guests every year.

“Working together throughout the challenges of the pandemic has brought out the best in us both,” says Pratibha Bankar. “At Premier Inn, we operate very much like a family, looking out for one another and supporting our colleagues as best we can, which in turn ensures that our guests enjoy the very best in service.”

Meanwhile, another female force in hospitality, Ghada Mahgoub, has taken up the position of Operations Manager at Premier Inn Barsha Heights, which opens for business this month as the 11th Premier Inn in the Mena region. Premier Inn is, which itself has a female Chief Executive Officer, Alison Brittain, at the helm. Alison was named Businesswoman of the Year 2017 in the Veuve Clicquot awards and was awarded a CBE in the 2019 New Year’s honours list.

Hasan Jasem Al Nowais, CEO of Mubadala Health, said: “Women have always played a pivotal role in the advancement of healthcare in the UAE. At Mubadala Health, we are proud that women represent more than 68 per cent of our workforce and that Emirati women make up 15 per cent of employees across our network. These numbers are proof of the outstanding contribution that women have made across the Mubadala Health network in providing patients with world-class care. We are committed to supporting women further enhance their participation in the healthcare sector. In our communities, we will continue to lead the way in women’s health issues by offering dedicated services in line with international best practice across Mubadala Health facilities.

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