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UAE marks IWD with pomp, flair and a strong message

I’m every woman, it’s all in me… As this classic Whitney Houston 1993 track rings in another International Women’s Day 2019, every woman in the UAE will be exchanging and celebrating the spirit of being ‘A Woman’.

Women in the UAE are strong and tough, don many hats displaying the fierce ability to fight, resilient take on every challenge raising the bar of endurance high every day and take life head-on, be it at work or home as multitasking is now a norm in the country.

Khaleej Times spoke to women from various key economic sectors who shared their perspective of celebrating this year’s IWD 2019 theme, Balance for Better. Most economic sectors today have women workforce at mid and senior levels aiming to scale new heights in their career growth.

Alisha Moopen, executive director and CEO for hospitals and clinics in the GCC at Aster DM Healthcare, said: “In healthcare, we have high proportion of participation of woman across the clinical roles with doctors, nurses and paramedics; we take great pride in the compassionate and nurturing attention of woman in this key role of society of delivering care. We aim and support a world where there is no restraint for woman on account of their gender to achieve and deliver on their potential.”

The UAE’s retail sector has come a long way with women making their presence felt, right from the front line to the boardroom, said Nisha Jagtiani, group director at Landmark Group.

“The UAE government has been extremely supportive in encouraging women participation in the workforce and ensuring equal opportunities for all. Women form a large part of the workforce at Landmark Group with close to 50 per cent of our store staff being women. We foster a passionate work culture by nurturing and empowering our people irrespective of gender. It is essential to build an ecosystem where diversity and inclusive work culture are valued.”

Leila Serhan, public sector director at Microsoft, Gulf points out that addressing the gender-parity gap could make the difference in fulfilling regional economic ambitions.

“This International Women’s Day 2019 is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that, in the 21st century, in the digital age, in the midst of humankind’s Fourth Industrial Revolution, women remain our most underutilised resource. Many organisations around the world now work towards the inclusive workplace, openly and diligently addressing issues such as the confidence gap and maternity bias,” added Serhan.

Global business intelligence firm McKinsey & Company reveals that women generate only 37 per cent of global GDP while representing half of the world’s working-age population. In the Middle East and North Africa, women generate only 18 per cent of regional GDP, despite representing half the region’s population.

The Sharjah-based Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies has turned its major focus on training and education of women in banking services.

“The UAE government is proactively realising its vision of being an inclusive country where women are empowered and encouraged to reach the pinnacle of their achievements. This has brought about larger gender equality in both the public and private sectors. Banks are one of highest employers of UAE locals and Emirati women make up 72 per cent of the local employee mix,” said Iman Salah, standards and Emiratisation officer at the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies.

More Women Power

At Expo 2020 Dubai, we are supporting the achievement of the global development agenda to create positive change in a number of areas, including gender equality and women’s empowerment.Women account for more than half of our workforce and, under the leadership of Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, we are working to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment is a central feature at Expo 2020 – including our content and programming.We are designing engaging and interactive visitor experiences that will challenge millions of Expo 2020 visitors to think about their own role in human development, and how they can make a positive, collective contribution to global causes. Hind Alowais, Vice President – International Participants, Expo 2020 Dubai

Emirati women have been effective partners in the UAE’s development, thriving in every sector since our country was established. We are empowered by our leadership’s unwavering belief in women’s potential and role. The women in the UAE have come to occupy prominent positions at the core of our country’s political, economic, business, and social establishments. They are now ambassadors, ministers, members and the Chairperson and the Speaker of the Federal National Council, CEOs of major companies, leaders, and pioneers in many fields and sectors. Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General, Smart Dubai

I joined Etisalat as a young graduate trainee and have risen from the ranks based through my hard work and capability. I am fortunate that the country I live in and the company I work for gave me the perfect platform to showcase my talent and contribute towards the growth of the company and the nation.The leadership in UAE has made the environment conducive for women empowerment, and the digital transformation in the country has brought several opportunities in future technologies such artificial intelligence, robotics, space, among others. Maha A Muraish, VP/Data Monetisation & Digital Channels-Etisalat Digital

To me gender equality isn’t just about female representation in our workforce, or in our governments or even in the military. It is about the deep-rooted mindset that believes there is no distinction between men and women. It is about a deeper dimension of societal norms and sense of identities that recognises people need to be valued and respected equally, regardless of gender. And it is a matter of pride that the social fabric of the UAE demonstrates this enlightened thinking. In the UAE gender equality goes beyond achieving statistics for gender parity. On this occasion let us celebrate not just women, but all individuals, regardless of gender, that have fought hard to ensure that we benefit from the supportive policies of our government, making it possible to live our lives on our terms. Kawther Alhamed, Human Resources and Administration Director at Union Properties

In our organisation, we have always encouraged the #BalanceforBetter philosophy as we believe in the principle of equal opportunity, irrespective of gender. Through our various initiatives, we have created a nurturing environment for all our employees, of which women make up a significant portion. Besides implementing flexible working hours, we have also introduced various women-centred initiatives such as the first ‘women-powered’ UAE Exchange branch, work-from-home facility for new mothers, option of working from the nearest branch for those located in remote areas as well as the Network of Women (NoW) group that organises numerous activities for our female employees. To promote the well-being of all our employees, we regularly conduct sessions on work-life balance, healthy living, and other crucial aspects of life. Bouchra Navel, Director-Emiratisation Department, UAE Exchange

As the UAE makes strides in women’s empowerment, we are also aiming to offer further support to our female colleagues in the workplace. This month we are launching Ford’s Professional Women’s Network here in Dubai. The vision of this is for Ford to be a global organisation dedicated to supporting and empowering women. We will continue to drive change, by guiding and educating our colleagues through learning connections and mentorship as part of this programme.The automotive industry is such an exciting space to be in, so we hope our initiatives at Ford ensure we continue to attract female talent to the sector. We also want to help inspire a younger generation of women here in the UAE to look at the automotive industry for future career opportunities. Katie Dove, Communications Director Ford Middle East and Africa and Chair of Ford MENA Professional Women’s Network

From a hospitality industry point of view, there is a healthy balance between genders in the UAE across various levels of the organisation. Both can be seen shouldering equal responsibilities right from the hotel’s front office to the inner circles of the top management. Women in UAE’s hospitality industry have also climbed the corporate ladder at a consistent pace and are doing a fabulous job at that. The decision makers in the organisation are witnessing the value that women bring to the table and that helps in the overall growth of the organisation. Through our collective actions and encouragement from the industry, we are sure to strike a ‘perfect balance’ within the gender roles on a global scale”. Vartika Goel, Country Head, UAE, OYO Hotels & Homes

The UAE has taken several effective steps to attain equality and representation for women, which stems from the belief that men and women are equal partners. This has also inspired us in the business world to implement more effective strategies to mirror the nationwide drive for equality. There are now more opportunities to establish a working environment that suits a woman’s lifestyle and requirements to have a successful career as well as follow her personal ambitions. So, in a sense the theme for International Woman’s Day applies to both a better balance between men and women, and a woman’s quest for a balanced life. Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications & Marketing Services Director, ?Canon Middle East and Central and North Africa

The UAE is one of the most diverse nations on earth and, as a women in the investment management profession in Abu Dhabi, I have never felt anything other than respected and secure. Everyone knows that from a business perspective there’s an upside to ethnic and gender diversity. Diverse teams have better results at a team level, a firm level, a country level. The UAE understands the importance of diversity, and while there’s a wa to go in terms of women on boards and in senior management positions, the intention is there to truly make a difference. #BalanceforBetter Rachel Pether, CFA, Senior Advisor & Co-Host, Follow the Money, Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute

“Our late founding father, Sheikh Zayed, consistently recognised women’s contribution to the UAE’s economic success. He noted that no country which pursues development can afford to ignore her potential. Looking ahead female influence will only increase as representation both in the workforce and boardroom goes up.” Reem Al Sayegh, senior regulatory lawyer at Linklaters

The pioneering steps taken by the UAE’s leadership have led to the daily empowerment of women, embedding a culture of gender equality across the public and private sectors. This equality is evident across all aspects of daily life, serving to position the UAE as a true frontrunner across the region and an example of what is possible. Dr Dalya Al Muthanna, President and CEO, GE Gulf.

“While it is imperative to praise the country’s leadership for its long-term goals, we must continue providing the right pathways for women entering the wider workforce. It is important that through new opportunities and job fairs such as Careers UAE we continue providing career advancement avenues for young women to gain the experience and skills that will enable them to grow into senior leadership roles in the future. Female empowerment is a key feature during Careers UAE 2019 across all employment sectors and will present a number of opportunities at the show, including a series of female-focused workshops being organised with the aim of further attracting strong independent Emirati career-oriented women to the show.” Asma Al Sharif, Show Director – Careers UAE 2019

“As society in general pushes the gender balance conversation, I encourage all women to pursue careers based on their passion – stay true to yourself and remember success isn’t the end goal, it’s a by-product of your dedication and hard work.” Margarita Vaadmonde-Beggs, Head Chef at the soon-to-launch MasterChef, the TV Experience-



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