Women leaders need to strike right balance

A Staff Reporter
Filed on April 17, 2005

DUBAI - Education undoubtedly plays a key role in developing women leaders globally, but to excel in the local UAE market, women leaders must also maintain a balance between careers and family and respect business ethics, voiced prominent national and exaptraite women participating in the 'Women, Education and Achievement' seminar hosted in Dubai on Sunday.

The seminar organised by the Australian Embassy in cooperation with Sultan Al Owais Cultural Foundation featured two Australian senior visiting academics, Professor Helen Grant, Vice-Chancellor, Charles Darwin University, Wendy McCarthy, Chancellor of University of Canberra, and two prominent UAE women leaders - Dr Fatima Al Sayegh, Lecturer in history, UAE University, and Latifa Fikri, Sales and Business Development Manager, Etisalat, Dubai. A cross section of national and expatriate women from educational institutions, business and the media attended the seminar.

The two emirati women leaders highlighted the many achievements of women in the UAE from its modest beginning of 3.4 per cent participation of women in the national workforce in 1980 to a high of 40 per cent recorded in 2005.

Dr Fatima Al Sayegh noted that illetracy rate among national women in the pre-oil society some three decades ago was 99 per cent. "But, we have come a long way and today with education and life long leraning as well as mentors, UAE women are playing an important role in business and political fields."

Latifa Fikri shared her personal experiences and impediments faced in achieving success in her career. She said, there exists several social barriers that affect the growth of women in the region and agrees a bit of discrimination against women also exists in the local society, but, we should rise above it and face the challenges and expectation that exists both in the UAE and the developed countries.

Wendy McCarthy revealed that 44 per cent of the workforce in Australia comprises women, "but we are not leaders in terms of work creation." Besides women in Australia prefer only a select group of industries for a career such as retailing, software and services, banks , healthcare and diversified financial sectors, while their presence is negligible in hotels, restaurants and leisure, automobiles and components, consumer durables and apparel, capital goods, and food, beverage and tobacco.

A survey carried out among the top 200 companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange last year revealed that women hold only 8.6 per cent of board of directorships, while 47.1 per cent of companies have no women directors, she said, disclosing that very few women occupy the top positions in companies in Australia.

Professor Helen Grant praised the achievements of women in the UAE in 30 years, which was achieved by Australia in over 50 years, but stressed the need for networking to improve the status of women further. Besides, mentoring and peer support group is important for women to facilitate changes in the future, she pointed out.

Margaret Barblet, Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy who moderated the seminar said, the seminar focussed on the experience of Australia and the UAE concerning the role of women in the past, current developments and trends relating to women in the family, education and business and future challenges and expectations in both countries.

She stressed the seminar aimed to provide a platform to learn more about each other and to have a more informed understanding of perceptions, priorities and challenges about the role of women in our respective societies.

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