UAE aims to be world leader in gender balance

The UAE is the first country in the region and the second in the world to issue binding legislation for women’s representation on boards of directors in government institutions.

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Sandhya D'Mello

Published: Sun 28 Aug 2022, 9:06 PM

Last updated: Sun 28 Aug 2022, 11:31 PM

The support and progressive vision of the wise leadership has enabled the UAE to solidify its position among the world's leading countries in this field, resulting in prominent successes by Emirati women over the past fifty years, said Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and President of Dubai Women Establishment (DWE), wife of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court

The UAE Gender Balance Council has achieved remarkable success since its founding in 2015. These achievements have been acknowledged on the global stage, and were possible through the support of the wise leadership’s support and of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), the Mother of the Nation, which follows the approach established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Sheikha Manal shed light on the initiatives and projects implemented by the Council during the past seven years, all of which have contributed enormously to the global recognition of the UAE’s commitment to gender balance.

She added that legislation and policies established the principle of equal opportunities, equal rights and duties, and access to equal job opportunities.

Corporate culture and global achievements

Sheikha Manal confirmed that these efforts have transformed the work culture in the UAE and have enabled the country to successfully climb the rankings multiple international reports measuring gender equality, advancing to 18th place globally in 2020, from 49th in 2015 and first in the Arab world in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Gender Inequality Index (GII).

The UAE also ranked first in the Mena region in the ‘Women, Business and the Law’ report in the 2021 and 2022 issued by the World Bank, which measures the efforts of governments around the world in developing laws and legislation aimed at protecting and women’s economic empowerment.

The UAE also ranked first in the Arab world in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report in 2021 and 2022, where it led globally in four sub-indicators: women’s parliamentary representation, literacy rate, the gender ratio at birth, and the rate of girls' enrolment in primary education. The UAE also led globally in female parliamentary representation in 2020 and 2021 in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, where the percentage of women’s representation in the Federal National Council reached 50 per cent, and ranked first in the secondary enrolment gender gap indicator in the Global Human Capital Report by World Economic Forum.

The UAE Gender Balance Strategy 2022-2026 aims to build the UAE's global leadership and gender balance is a priority in the country’s vision under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The ‘Gender Balance Index’, developed in cooperation with the Prime Minister's Office, which honours government personalities, initiatives and entities that support gender balance would soon be implemented at the local government level after the great success and impact it had at the federal level since 2017, in a step that will play an essential role in enhancing the competitiveness of the UAE globally.

During Expo 2020, the Council launched a report titled ‘Balance for Better: A comprehensive overview of gender balance in the UAE’, with the aim to promote gender balance awareness in the UAE, highlighting its process and the achievements made in the country and exploring opportunities to enhance its competitiveness globally.

Gender balance legislation

Since 2019, the UAE Gender Balance Council has worked with a group that included ministries and federal authorities to review, update and propose new legislation and policies related to women to enhance gender balance in the country and fill any gaps in global indicators. As a result, new laws and legislative improvements were issued to more than 20 legal articles over three years, covering areas such as work, protection, political participation, personal status law, parental leaves, wages, banking transactions, freedom of movement, marriage, entrepreneurship, property and pension.

Women on Board of Directors

In 2020, the Council launched the ‘Guide for Women on Board’, in cooperation with the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA), as part of its efforts to increase women's representation in leadership and decision-making positions in the public and private sectors, due to its positive effects proven by previous experiences and specialised studies. The UAE was the first country in the region and the second in the world after Norway to issue binding legislation requiring the representation of women on the boards of directors of government entities and institutions in 2012. SCA also implemented a policy to raise the percentage of women representation on their boards of directors in publicly listed companies. These efforts led to an increase in the representation of women on the boards of directors of federal government entities to 24 per cent and 19.8 per cent on the boards of directors of the chambers of commerce and industry in the country.

Pledge to accelerate equality in the private sector

The UAE’s Private Sector Advisory Council on SDGs announced the development of a voluntary pledge to raise the percentage of women’s participation in leadership positions in the private sector to 30 per cent by 2025, which was carried out in cooperation with the UAE Gender Balance Council, the UAE’s National Committee on SDGs and 23 leading national and international companies. This initiative reflects the private sector’s commitment to positioning the UAE as a country that supports gender balance regionally and internationally, reducing the gender gap and ensuring economic stability for women around the world.

Global initiatives

Following in the footsteps of the UAE’s approach to supporting international efforts to enhance women’s economic and social participation and sustainable development goals, the UAEGBC succeeded in building and strengthening influential global partnerships with numerous countries and international organisations that have notable experiences in gender balance policies. In 2017, the Council hosted the meeting of the UN’s Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, and in the same year, launched the ‘Global Gender Circles’ initiative, an inspiring platform to promote global dialogue on the best policies that support gender balance at all levels and accelerate work to achieve SDG5. The ‘Global Gender Circle’ were organised in New York, Washington (2017), Brussels (2018) and Dubai (during the World Government Summit 2019), and the fifth Global Gender Circle was held in March 2021 virtually on the side lines of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Sheikha Manal stresses that the Council will continue its efforts to achieve the crucial vision of the UAE Gender Balance Strategy that aims to position the country as a global model for gender balance and attain leadership and international prominence in this field. —

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