Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion: A journey of empathy and progress in the UAE

With a heart firmly on its sleeve, the UAE sets forth an inspiring narrative of understanding and empathy, striving for a society where everyone finds their rightful place

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By Ahmad Itani

Published: Tue 12 Sep 2023, 7:55 PM

Last updated: Tue 12 Sep 2023, 8:00 PM

In a world yearning for unity and compassion, the pursuit of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) stands at the forefront of creating societies that embrace all. Amidst the vibrant Middle East and North Africa region, the UAE takes centre stage as a trailblazer in fostering an inclusive landscape. With a heart firmly on its sleeve, the UAE sets forth an inspiring narrative of understanding and empathy, striving for a society where everyone finds their rightful place.

Here, every voice is heard, and every identity is cherished. It is a land where barriers crumble and bridges are built, uniting individuals from all corners of the globe. A profound sense of understanding permeates the air, weaving a tapestry of empathy that knits people together, binding them in a shared vision of coexistence and progress.

Diversity and inclusion

As a global melting pot, the UAE embraces its expatriate population with open arms. Implementing the "Golden Visa" provides long-term residency options, nurturing stability and a sense of belonging. Beyond borders and cultures, activating the Golden Visa program reinforces the UAE's position as a global hub for business, innovation, and talent. It is a testament to the nation's forward-thinking approach as it continues to evolve and attract the best and brightest minds worldwide, contributing to the UAE's growth, development, and prosperity journey.

However, at the heart of the UAE's commitment to DE&l lies a dedication to gender equality. Through the establishment of the UAE Gender Balance Council, the nation charts a path towards equitable representation. Notably, laws promoting equal pay for women in the private sector exemplify the UAE's resolve to dismantle barriers and pave the way for gender parity. As women rise to prominent political roles, including ministerial positions, the UAE exemplifies the power of gender diversity in shaping a progressive society. With a population enriched by over 200 nationalities, the UAE embraces cultural diversity and coexistence, creating an environment where the collective strength of unity thrives.

Additionally, the UAE's profound Emiratisation policies echo a profound belief in the potential of its citizens, prioritising Emirati employment in the private sector and empowering them to take the reins of leadership. Organisations like Emirates NBD, Etihad Airways, and Enoc spearhead initiatives that promote diversity in leadership roles, fostering an ecosystem where every citizen’s talent and aspiration find a place to flourish.

As the UAE's national airline, Etihad Airways plays a significant role in reflecting the country's values and commitment to equality. The airline's initiatives to increase female representation in their Emirati workforce, particularly in pilot and technical roles, are clear evidence to their dedication to breaking gender barriers in traditionally male-dominated industries.

On the other hand, Enoc's "Enoc Women's Committee" is a powerful initiative that empowers women within the organization, enhancing their leadership capabilities and professional skills. The committee encourages a more inclusive and supportive work environment by providing a platform for women to collaborate, network, and support each other.

Inclusion of people of determination

In the UAE's pursuit of inclusivity, no one is left behind. With a determined effort to include People of Determination, the UAE champions equal opportunities in society and the workforce. Inspired programs like "Together Limitless" at Emirates NBD promote opportunities for People of Determination embracing their unique strengths and potential. But this program goes beyond being just a corporate initiative; it is a reflection of the bank's core values of empathy, respect, and diversity. By championing the rights and potential of People of Determination, the programme sets a precedent for other organizations to follow, further driving the UAE's inclusive and compassionate society.

Defying conventional wisdom

In 2022, Raisa Ghazi, a public speaker in inclusive leadership who helps women rise to the top through her Women's Leadership Strategy course, penned an article in Forbes titled "The Why And How For Diversity, Equity And Inclusion In The Mena Region." In it, she posited that the most significant factor and motivation for organisations to make a change is money and that companies in the UAE experience employee age and race issues.

In truth, Dubai, as a shining example within the Mena region, has been on a transformative journey of embracing DE&I not merely for economic gains but as a profound reflection of its core values and vision.

The UAE leadership's commitment to promoting gender equality and inclusivity stems from a deep belief in every individual's inherent dignity and worth, irrespective of gender, age, race, or background.

Furthermore, while the economic case for DE&l is undeniable, the immeasurable societal impact sets the UAE apart. By fostering an inclusive and diverse society, Dubai becomes a beacon of hope for individuals seeking a place to truly belong and thrive. It creates an environment where people feel valued, respected and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents to the nation's collective progress.

Indeed, DE&l in the UAE goes beyond gender equality. The focus on employee age and race, as highlighted by the UAE's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, underscores the commitment to creating an inclusive workplace that embraces the richness of its multicultural workforce. True innovation flourishes in the harmony of diversity, and organisations in the UAE recognize this profound truth.

In light of these considerations, the UAE's pursuit of DE&l embodies the nation's soul, reflects its values, and is a testament to its vision of creating a harmonious and inclusive society. Fuelled by compassion and understanding, the UAE creates an inclusive society where every voice finds resonance, and every heart finds solace. As we traverse the path towards a more equitable world, let the UAE's example remind us that pursuing unity and empathy will forever be worth the journey. Together, hand in hand, we are embracing the rich fabric of humanity and sowing the seeds of prosperity for generations to come.

(Ahmad Itani is Founder & CEO of Cicero & Bernay)

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