Guide launched for UAE firms to achieve gender balance

The UAE Gender Balance Council on Tuesday launched a guide that will help public and private companies provide equal opportunities for men and women at the workplace. Developed in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the guide will help entities implement internal projects, initiatives and goals to achieve gender balance in line with UAE’s Vision 2021.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, while attending the launching of the ‘Gender Balance Guide for the workplace in the UAE’ – the world’s first of its kind guide for workplaces – said that the UAE started the efforts decades ago and has always focused on building human capital without a segregation between male and female.

He added that the UAE’s progress in this journey of gender balance, since it was launched by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and followed by the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, along with the follow up of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, both men and women are responsible partners in building the nation’s capabilities and maintaining its achievements.

“In 2015, we launched the UAE Gender Balance Council to pave the way for the UAE to achieve an advanced ranking globally and enhance our competitiveness in this domain,” he said.

He called upon the public and private sectors to implement the guide’s rules and guidelines, adding that despite the fact that the UAE’s efforts to attain gender balance has reached an advanced stage, reaping the benefits of this experience won’t be achieved unless all efforts are translated into concrete achievements.

Sheikh Mohammed also attended a workshop themed “Enhancing Gender Balance at Leadership positions” held on the sidelines of the event. Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of the UAE Gender Balance Council, and wife of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister of Presidential Affairs; commended the positive results achieved in the federal government, which reflect the leadership’s commitment to gender issues, ensuring equal opportunities and creating a conducive work environment for both women and men.

Mona Al Marri, vice-president of UAE Gender Balance Council, said the guide will help companies develop and implement internal policies to give right opportunities for men and women across all positions. “We aren’t only looking at the position of women, but we are making sure both genders are provided equal rights in the workplace to reduce the gender gap in our society,” said Al Marri.

Al Marri said while policies are in place, they’re mostly not implemented due to the lack of a follow up system. She said while women’s participation in certain fields is high, the key is to look at women in leadership positions. She pointed out that statistics show higher participation of women in the education field than men, which indicates more action needed to fill that gender gap.

“The guide is a good case companies can follow and implement. Any action taken for gender balance will impact the overall UAE strategy,” she added.

How the Gender Balance Guide will help

The Gender Balance Guide proposes a roadmap for improvement, focusing on an incremental approach using levels of progress. It will give companies tips to achieve gender balance through the following:

> Actions to implement commitment and oversight for gender balance

> Actions to integrate gender into policies and programmes

>Actions for engaging personnel towards gender balance

> Actions to implement gender balance in leadership positions

> Actions to implement gender sensitive communication

UAE, a champion of gender equality

> The UAE aims to be among the top 25 nations worldwide excelling in the field of women’s empowerment

> The International Monetary Fund estimated that the UAE will achieve 12% growth in GDP if women in labour force were equal to men

> Currently, women make up 66% of the public sector workers, with 30% in leadership roles

> According to officials, women need to form 43% of leadership positions

> Women make up 65% of total higher education graduates

> According to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Gender Gap Report, UAE is one of the leading nations in terms of educational attainment and health of women

Private sector lagging behind: OECD official

Mari Kiviniemi, deputy secretary-general at OECD, said studies show that diversity in the workplace results in productivity and efficiency, which provides economic diversity.

While the UAE’s public sector achieved high women participation, the private sector is still lagging behind. “Although women in the region are more educatied, they don’t participate in the labour force like men,” she said.

Kiviniemi noted that first step has to be building awareness in organisations and society. “When a concrete action plan is implemented step by step, we can then make measurements and monitor progress towards the overall objectives,” she said, noting that the sense of competition among organisations will encourage gender balance.

The UAE aims to enhance its role in competitive reports and be among the top 25 nations worldwide excelling in the field of women’s empowerment by 2021. The newly created national balance indicators also look at women in senior leadership positions and technical fields, and work environment.

Companies will be evaluated

Companies will be evaluated for achieving gender balance using the National Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that focus on social cohesion index and happiness index.

They will be evaluated across the three categories of bronze, silver and gold. Those that implement the guide and support the efforts in enhancing gender balance in the country will be granted the ‘UAE Gender Balance Seal.’

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Strike the right balance

Gender balance should also be about equal pay and benefits for women. It’s not just about rights, it also entails responsibility on the part of employers who must ensure they are paid the same for the same jobs that men do. Government departments are at the forefront of these reforms that were implemented two years ago. Private companies should follow suit in letter and spirit.




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