Complex Made Simple

Shamsa Saleh: The UAE leads the way for women empowerment in the Middle East

Dubai Women Establishment CEO hosts UAE Gender Balance Council session at the 11th Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, France

Dubai Women Establishment (DWE) CEO and General Coordinator of the UAE Gender Balance Council, Shamsa Saleh, delivered a session in France today about the achievements of the UAE Gender Balance Council and how the UAE is setting a precedent for women empowerment in the region.

The session, ‘UAE Gender Balance Council: A new reference point’ took place at the 11th Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, which began today and will conclude on October 16th.

The UAE Gender Balance Council was established earlier this year by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. The Council, chaired by the President of Dubai Women Establishment, Shaikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is responsible for the development of policies and initiatives which empower Emirati women with opportunities and skills, and enhance their role in the nation’s progress. The UAE is the only country in the world to establish a government entity dedicated to achieving this goal.

During the session, Ms. Saleh highlighted the role of the UAE Gender Balance Council as a benchmark for women empowerment amongst other Arab nations, which are keen to follow the Council’s work as a reference point for best practice. Ms. Saleh said: “Gender equality is achieved when people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities, regardless of whether they are a woman or a man. So how are we making a dream for many nations and societies a reality in the UAE? By building forward thinking and strong policies that support this idea.”

She continued: “Emirati women began entering the workforce over 30 years ago, going from 3.4% in 1975, to 11.7% in 1995. Today, we hold 66% of all public sector jobs and 30% of all decision-making positions within the government sector. Emirati women also represent 71% of all graduates and we have more than 1500 Emirati women in Dubai Police – 93 of whom hold leadership positions.”

Since its establishment, the UAE Gender Balance Council has introduced several initiatives to inspire organisations to review and address gender balance compliance standards. This includes the recently launched UAE Gender Balance Index, which is a national ranking system to measure gender balance in the workplace. The Index has been launched across all government sectors and is set to be rolled out into the public sector over the coming year.

Ms. Saleh stressed the importance of striving to achieve gender balance. She said: “I am an Arab woman, but I am also a mother, a wife, a daughter and a very proud sister. Equally so, I am the CEO of Dubai Women Establishment and the General Coordinator of the UAE Gender Balance Council. As an Arab woman, I am a mother and a CEO, not a mother or CEO. In the UAE, we strive to find gender balance, which will allow every Arab woman to not feel obliged to sacrifice their family life in order to succeed in the workplace. In other words, work and family must go hand-in-hand.”

She added: “Women represent 49.3% of the UAE population, and our active participation in the economy and society will reap insurmountable benefits, however, gender balance is about more than economics. Above all, it is about happiness. The happiness of women who never have to comprise on family or career, and the happiness of men who share a common vision for the continued progress of their society and nation.”

The talk was held at Dubai Women Establishment’s ‘Discovery Corner’ booth, as part of a number of sessions the UAE delegation is participating in at this year’s Women’s Forum Global Meeting. The Women’s Forum Global Meeting, now in its 11th edition, is being attended by 2,000 delegates from 70 countries and a wide range of international organisations, to provide new perspectives about the role of women globally, under this year’s theme of ‘energising the world.’

Throughout the remainder of the event, the UAE delegation will also be discussing Dubai’s preparations to host the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s first Women’s Forum next year, on February 23rd and 24th. The Forum, which is being co-organised by the Dubai Women Establishment, will highlight the UAE’s efforts to empower Emirati women and provide a platform for the exchange of experiences about gender balance, the development of women’s capabilities and women’s empowerment. Women’s Forum Dubai is expected to attract over 2,000 international and regional decision-makers to the UAE.