Women in the workforce: UAE leads the way
18 Apr 2017
Females have the capabilities to make significant contributions to businesses and the economy
The UAE is redefining women empowerment in the region not merely by setting goals for itself - it's also in serious business to see the changes happen right from the government level to the private sector, both for Emiratis and expatriates.
The numbers are soaring and if the given trend continues, then the vision of seeing the UAE as a top nation in the region to boost its economy with equally-strong contribution from women won't merely a theory but could soon be a reality - and this will add a new dimension of growth.
On the government front, the Dubai Women Establishment's 'disruptive innovation' leadership programme developed in collaboration with renowned Ashridge-Hult International Business School is a testimony of the ongoing process of development of women in their career and contributing to building UAE economy.
Around 14 prominent female Emirati leaders participated in the programme. These participants now have the onus of deploying skills that they acquired in their existing roles.
The programme did feature innovative project work, allowing participants to demonstrate how they can apply disruptive innovation and exponential thinking to their organisations and the wider society.
Throughout the programme, participants tackled two strategic projects, one of which was focused on increasing the number of women voters in Federal National Council elections, by changing the perceptions of society around women voters. The second project was focused on achieving work-life integration, to establish a competitive economy driven by men and women enabled to give their best. Each of the project groups will have an opportunity to present their proposals to UAE leaders following the programme.
The objective behind the programme was to further develop the capabilities of female Emirati leaders in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to nurture the skills and knowledge of UAE nationals, and prepare them to shape the future of the nation, said Mona Al Marri, chairperson of the board of the Dubai Women Establishment.
"We want to equip female leaders with the tools and skills to help Dubai and the UAE make the inconceivable conceivable, and the impossible possible. By nurturing a culture of disruptive innovation, our leaders can create a paradigm shift in the way their organisations operate and respond to challenges, now and in the future."
Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, has been quoted in a section of the media that currently, 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. The recent regulation by the UAE's Securities and Commodities Authority requiring that at least 20 per cent of the board of any listed company is composed of women gives a major boost to women's development in the UAE.
This shift in trusting women with decision making is also witnessed in multinationals like Procter & Gamble, Cisco and SAP, to name a few. "As a company that understands women and girls, we are leveraging our insights to uncover gender bias and taking actions to spark conversations and set new expectations that motivate change," said Marwa Elshahawy, associate director of corporate communications for the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and Africa at Procter & Gamble.
"This belief in gender equality can be seen in how we operate in the UAE; our employee gender ratio is approximately 50:50, and over a third of our management are female. We see equal opportunity, with equal access to education and economic opportunities for women and men."
The entrepreneurial wave can also be seen among the UAE startup firms and a number of women are now joining hands to build their own businesses. According to a research from Arabnet and Dubai SME, females represented 13 per cent of all founders in the 2015 data.
Data for 2016 demonstrates that female representation is 14 per cent - roughly one in six - of all founders/co-founders of investor-backed businesses in the Mena. Gender distribution among startup founders has been relatively stable between 2013-15, ranging from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. The report further stated that in 2016-funded companies, the rate of female founders was much higher, reaching 26 per cent.
Mike Weston, vice-president of Cisco Middle East, thinks that Cisco is focused on having a multicultural community that fosters inclusion and enables a diverse mix of talent to thrive.
"We believe that a diverse workforce will help in better understanding of customer needs and create innovative solutions to meet these needs. It is essential for us to build a diversity of skills, experiences, and perspectives into the organisations culture at every level. We continuously work on long-term strategies and tie up with organisations to increase the number of women in the fields of science and technology."