Women rise to leadership roles in UAE

Friday 21/08/2015
Reem al-Hashemy, UAE Minister of State and Managing Director of the Dubai World Expo 2020 Bid Committee.

Dubai - When Dubai won the right to host the World Expo 2020, it was Reem Al Hashe­my, the UAE minis­ter of state and managing director of the Dubai bid committee, who led the emirate’s team through many rounds of presentations.
Although there was a high-pow­ered UAE delegation at the event, Hashemy became the face of Expo 2020 and a role model for many women in the United Arab Emirates.
In early May 2015, when the UAE announced its Mars mission, the 150-person Emirati team of engi­neers and scientists had several women at the forefront, including Sarah Amiri, deputy project man­ager and lead science investigator.
As Hashem and Amiri have shown, women in the UAE are proving themselves in education, health, public service, business and technology as well as in the arts, culture and sports.
“Women graduates outnumber male students in the UAE. This is obviously reflected in the work­force, notably in the public sector, where more than 60% of Emirati employees are women, holding top positions in administration, human resources, information technology and customer care,” said Pon Mo­haideen Pitchai, human resources director of organisational develop­ment at Dubai Properties Group.
Pitchai noted that “the current generation of UAE women is fluent in English and that is likely to lead to more opportunities for them in the private sector”.
In addition to boosting education for women over the past few dec­ades, the UAE has allocated 30% of its top government posts for wom­en, further empowering them in the public sector.
In 2012, the UAE government de­cided that every board of directors in the country must have female representation. This was followed by the establishment of the Gulf Chapter for WomenCorporateDi­rectors (WCD) in March 2013 in Abu Dhabi.
Family businesses are also pro­viding opportunities for women in the UAE to show leadership mettle.
“Entrepreneurship is proving to be a key element in promoting em­powerment of women in the UAE,” says Raja al-Gurg, managing direc­tor of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, which provides products and ser­vices in the retail, building and con­struction sectors.
“By encouraging more women to be entrepreneurs, we are harnessing the largely untapped potential of women to become key contributors to the social and economic develop­ment of the society,” says Gurg, who made the 2015 Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
On her part, Fatima al-Jaber, chief operating officer of Al Jaber Group, who took the lead in setting up the Gulf chapter of WCD, advocates “a mixture between quotas and natu­ral progression”. “There should be more initiatives to encourage wom­en to be productive, including train­ing opportunities, empowerment programmes, all combined with women-friendly laws in the work­place,” she said.
Pitchai, who is a regular column­ist on human resources (HR) issues in the UAE and Gulf, says “more than the policies and systems, gov­ernment should focus on human resources development, where the fundamentals of learning are strengthened.”
He admitted that additional sup­port systems were needed for work­ing women to balance home life and their careers. “A professional HR environment in business and institutional support are a must. Flexible work options will enable a good work-life balance. Employee welfare measures must also include laws to protect women’s rights,” Pitchai said. Economic and so­cial pressures have led more Emi­rati women to seek jobs. “Effective coaching and mentoring is essential to create a good working environ­ment, especially in the private sec­tor, where performance plays a key role,” Pitchai said.
He noted that the private sector is being increasingly urged to improve gender diversity and encourage tel­ecommuting that will allow women to work from home.
In the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, which covers 133 countries, the UAE ranked first in the Middle East and North Africa region in terms of clos­ing the gender gap in education, wage equality, political rights and health care.
UAE Minister of International Cooperation and Development Sheikha Lubna al-Qasimi was also mentioned on the Forbes list, rank­ing as the 42nd most powerful wom­an in the world. She was praised by the publication for leading the UAE “into an unprecedented amount of philanthropy”.
The 2015 Global Women in Lead­ership Economic Forum is sched­uled for November in Abu Dhabi and is planned to focus on advanc­ing women’s participation in the workforce and increasing their busi­ness opportunities.