The UAE has made significant progress in its mission to empower women in the workforce across various sectors and the nation’s women can today be classified as role models for the rest of the world, officials said.
“I believe the development of an economy is measured by the development of its women,” said Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and chairperson of Nama Women Advancement Establishment, on Monday.
Speaking at the UAE’s first Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS), Sheikha Jawaher noted that productivity in the workforce increases by more than 50 per cent with the active inclusion of women. The development of women in economic fields gives them a chance to excel in various other fields on local, regional and international levels, she said.
The WEEGS was conceived under the vision and patronage of Sheikha Jawaher to further advance the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by the organisation’s General Assembly in September 2015. The event calls upon all sectors of society to pledge a commitment to action for women economic empowerment.
The event was inaugurated in the presence of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.
“Women are an essential part of society, who contribute to the transformation of society,” Sheikha Jawaher said. Looking back, she said women in the UAE were never excluded from key decision making events even before oil was discovered in the region.
“The UAE is an example of a country that takes the education and empowerment of women seriously. Around 70 per cent of university students are girls, and 46.6 per cent of the labour market today is made up of women. In addition, 66 per cent of all government employees are women. Over 30 per cent of managerial positions across various industries are taken up by women and 15 per cent of expert positions in the private sector are held by women,” she informed.
She added: “Real empowerment of women does not come through pretty slogans or speeches, it comes through economic development and proper support. There is still more that needs to be done, but the UAE has set an invaluable standard in the achievement of this vision.”
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of State for Tolerance, in his keynote speech said both the private and public sectors need to work together to reinforce the position and role of women globally, so that they will contribute to the development of nations socially and economically.
“The cause that we are deliberating is the economic empowerment of women and we hope that we can do so by 2030 as decided by the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said. “In the UAE, the empowerment of women constitutes a main priority for all of us. We have to work untiringly to ensure that women will be confident of their skills and take the initiative to launch their ideas and start their own businesses.”
Women in the UAE are role models who take an active part in decision making, he added. Many are pioneers when it comes to the development of various sectors in the country. Their contribution in championing and furthering the cause of women empowerment is an example to the rest of the world, he proclaimed.
Sheikh Nahyan also reinforced that women in the UAE have the full support of the UAE government in their wish to work in various domains across the economy. “There is still much to be done in the future in getting women to fulfill their full role. To ensure this, there has to be absolutely no discrimination among men and women in the workforce and in the careers they wish to pursue. Women like their male counterparts have a key role to play in the sustainable development of any nation.”
“It is important to create opportunities for women in the workforce across various positions, including management, so they can contribute to their full potential,” he added.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, undersecretary general and executive director – UN Women, said it was heartening to see the progress that the UAE had made in recent years and the steps the country had taken to champion the rights of women.
“For women to excel in the economy, they require access to resources, support and a proper environment and ecosystem,” she said. “We would like to see the public sector create a better environment for women to get decent jobs and start and grow a business. That includes a wide range of policy interventions, including equal pay, parental leave schemes and work-life balance.”
She added: “At the summit, one of the policies that we are specifically advocating is gender-responsive procurement. That means companies and governments make gender equality and women’s empowerment a priority in purchasing policies and practices, especially to create equal access to business opportunities for women entrepreneurs. We also want to see higher quality investment in women’s skills and capacity development, mainly in their skills to respond to the changing world of work.”