Middle East News
Achieving economic and workplace equality for women is an ongoing battle worldwide, with certain key sectors, such as technology, dominated by male cultures. However, it might be a surprise for many to learn that the United Arab Emirates is trying to lead the way in empowering women. Although there are still major challenges to overcome, the economic position of women in the UAE is going from strength to strength and is playing an active role in the country’s development.
Indeed, the UAE has a national strategy in place to empower women. Its Gender Balance Council works to develop policies that support women and implements them in the best possible manner. It also works to equalise opportunities between men and women for leadership and decision-making positions. Things do seem to be changing with women in the UAE forming 47% of the workforce. On a political front, there are eight female ministers representing a third of the seats in the cabinet and the Federal National Council is chaired by a woman, with 20% of its membership consisting of women. Even more positive is the decree introducing a mandatory female presence in corporate boardrooms, with a target of 20% by 2020 for listed companies.
So, for woman in the UAE, career possibilities are generally very bright however what makes the UAE even more unique to the rest of the world is women’s participation in technology leadership. 56% of today’s STEM graduates in the UAE are women - much higher than the Western world. On top of this, 35% of internet entrepreneurs in the Arab world are woman - compared to 10% worldwide.
Diverse perspectives are vital to the development of 21st-century technologies and again this is an area where the UAE are leading the way. Women in the UAE make up 66% of the public sector workforce, of which 30% are in leadership roles. The third of women who make up the UAE cabinet all play key roles in supporting technology and innovation in the country. Here, women are not a stark minority in technology sector; they’re present in all the major technology initiatives and, in many instances, are leading them.
As usual Dubai is leading the way in the UAE and their level of female leadership should serve as a positive example to the Western technology elite. For example, much of Dubai’s innovation is being driven by the Smart Dubai office, which is led by Dr. Aisha bin Bishr. Working closely with Bin Bishr is Zeina El Kaissi, head of emerging technology and global partnerships for the Smart Dubai office. Dubai is implementing smart technologies into its city with the goal to become the world’s first paperless and blockchain-powered city. In speaking about such new innovations, El Kaissi comments that women in the UAE are playing a leading role in developing emerging-technology sectors. “Women here are key drivers of the technology agenda in academia, research, government, and the private digital sector. El Kaissi continues “This is a time of unprecedented opportunity in technology advancement, and women leaders such as Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr are pushing the boundaries of what is possible and positioning Dubai as an inclusive and thriving technology hub for the world.”
What is very clear, is that female role models in the UAE are present in many diverse STEM fields, and as the talent continues to be cultivated the number of women in technology leadership roles will continue to grow and they will inspire the next generation of female leaders.