UAE has achieved 'remarkable feats' in reducing gender gaps, experts say

Middle-East Women’s Board of Directors Summit summit draws participation of high level delegates, women directors, top government officials and professionals


Rohma Sadaqat

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Shamsa Saleh, CEO Dubai Women Establishment, speaks at the Middle-East Women’s Board of Directors. KT Photo/Shihab
Shamsa Saleh, CEO Dubai Women Establishment, speaks at the Middle-East Women’s Board of Directors. KT Photo/Shihab

Published: Thu 21 Apr 2022, 12:26 AM

The UAE has achieved several extraordinary feats in diminishing stereotypes and reducing gender gaps over the last 50 years, experts said at the Middle-East Women’s Board of Directors Summit.

Organised by Khaleej Times, the event is part of a new initiative titled ‘Empowering Women, Empowering Businesses’, which is built on the belief that every woman has the ability to lead and create positive change across economies. The main objective of the initiative is aligned with the efforts of the Dubai Women Establishment (DWE) as well as the UAE Gender Balance Council (GBC).

The summit, on Wednesday, drew the participation of several high level delegates, women directors, top government officials, as well as diversity professionals from global organisations who are currently focusing on empowering women in key leadership roles within and outside their job functions.

Speaking at the event, Shamsa Saleh, CEO of the Dubai Women Establishment (DWE), said that the UAE has achieved “remarkable feats” in diminishing gender stereotypes, reforming discriminatory laws, and significantly reducing gender gaps over the last 50 years.

“We went from being one of the lowest ranking countries in the world in multiple international reports to now being 18th in the UNDP gender inequality index and scoring 82.5 in the World Bank index,” she said. “We are without a doubt the regional benchmark in gender equality, and this is because we believe in the power of gender balanced economies and societies. Efforts such as paid parental leave, equal pay for equal work laws, non-discrimination laws, protection of pregnant women from dismissal, and paid paternity leave are some of the recent legislative reforms that have brought us to where we are today.”

She also noted that the importance of women working in all industries and sectors, and across all levels of leadership, cannot be understated. “We know that more gender balanced workplaces and economies create more gender balanced societies and countries.”

Ebru Tuygun, regional CMO at Accenture, added that the UAE government is doing a great job in leading the way by introducing enforcement to have at least one woman board director for public companies.

“I think it is a great starting point and this should be endorsed by both public and private companies,” she said. “If governments award companies with a higher Women Empowerment Rate (WER) score that we can introduce, and provide more opportunities for those companies in many spaces, we will see women empowerment more in action. I see the Women’s Board of Directors Summit by Khaleej Times as a great platform to discuss women empowerment, to put talks into action, and I am very excited to see many inspirational people coming together for this ambition.”

Samah Al Hajeri, director of Cooperatives and Strategic Reserve at the Ministry of Economy, explained that gender balance, equal opportunities, and easy access to services are some of the main principles on which the UAE was founded. “We are proud to say that the UAE has set a strong example globally in these fields. Today, women across the emirates are part of a strong ecosystem that allows them to not only excel in any field that they choose to have a career in, but also supports them as they rise through the ranks to top leadership positions.”

She stressed that it is important for young female graduates to observe other women in positions of leadership that will inspire them and offer guidance as they set out to become the next generation of innovative leaders. “The UAE has already achieved many successes in its vision towards establishing inclusive societies, and guided by the wise leadership of the country, we are sure to see several more as the country sets out to establish itself as a world model for gender balance.”

The UAE has been leading the region in competitiveness indicators and relevant global reports over the past years. Most recently, in the ‘Women, Business and the Law’ 2021 report issued by the World Bank, the country achieved a full 100 points mark across five areas: freedom of mobility, work, wages, entrepreneurship, and pension.

Alizeh Fatima Zaidi, head of Human Resources at Galadari Brothers Group, noted that organisations across the UAE share a great responsibility in achieving the UAE’s vision and goal of gender equality. “Already, a lot of progress has been made with the launch of the 2026 UAE Gender Balance Strategy, as well as the relentless drive by the wise leadership of the UAE in announcing laws and legislation aimed at protecting and empowering women economically.”

“The ‘Empowering Women, Empowering Businesses’ initiative will play a key role in sharing best practices in the industry and highlighting the steps needed to create a more sustainable and future-ready economy,” she added. “We hope that the initiative will set a precedent in highlighting the best ways to elevate more women to senior leadership levels.”

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