United Arab Emirates



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The UAE context for Gender Economic Governance

Driven by a highly-focused ambition to become the world’s leading government in delivering sustainable development, the UAE has made huge strides to ensure its economy is stable in the aftermath of the 2008 global debacle, followed by the oil price glut in 2014. It has proved itself resilient in many aspects of the economy and continues to build an attractive market for FDIs to enter the country, as well as increase its GDP inputs.

The country’s leadership have shown a strong position to ensure policies and regulations on par with international standards are in place and monitored. This has led to increased confidence from the international markets about the country’s capability to steer its economy amidst global economic changes and protect its country from major challenges.

The Ministry of Economy has stated in its latest report a strong desire to continue improving their economy by achieving more international competitiveness and diversification. According to statistics and data registered by various sectors, the UAE’s GDP, particularly its non-oil components, has achieved significant growth at current and constant prices, as the policy of economic diversification continues to gain momentum in line with ongoing endeavours to build a post-oil economy. UAE economic mission is:

“to develop the national economy andcreate a pro-business environment that contributes to achieve balanced and sustainable development of the country, through the enactment and modernisation of economic legislations, foreign trade policies, development of national industries and exports, promotion of investment, regulation of competition and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector, protection of consumer and intellectual property rights, and diversification of economic activities, under the leadership of efficient nationals, in line with international standards of creativity, excellence and knowledge economies”.


Enhancing international standing

The UAE’s Vision 2021 reflects the commitment of the UAE government and leadership to improve gender parity as a means to achieving the empowerment and equal participation of both men and women. The UAE’s overall goal is “to be among the best countries in the world by 2021.”
Part of this means achieving full equitable participation of both women and men in UAE organisations including in decision-making and leadership positions. Vision 2021 is a call to action for building a cohesive society and preserved identity; a safe public and fair judiciary; a competitive knowledge economy; first rate education system; world class healthcare; and a sustainable environment and infrastructure.

The UAE’s economic goals are in line with the objectives of the Vision 2021. Setting different national priorities for their social and economic development means the country is embarking on a journey of empowerment at all levels, that includes confronting challenges of their cohesive society, their economic competitiveness, their national identity, their health, education, environment and well-being. The government is aware that their goals cannot be reached by relying on their past achievements and that they must work harder, be more innovative, become more organised and more vigilant in examining the trends and challenges that will face them.

Maximising the use of talent in economy and society is critical for achieving inclusive growth and fostering national competitiveness. Equal access for both men and women in public and economic opportunities is part of a more equitable and sustainable economy and society.

Indeed, achieving gender parity in the public sector is found to contribute to reduced inequality rates and considerably improved public confidence in government institutions. Greater empowerment of women in public leadership positions not only leads to higher living standards, positive developments in health, education and infrastructure but also has an impact on potential long-term growth effects.

In the private sector, greater gender equality is also found to increase the competitiveness of the labour market, boost productivity gains, and expand the talent pool from which employers can draw. In fact, in OECD countries, reducing the gender gap in employment in both the public and private sector was strongly correlated with an average GDP increase of 12% over 20 years.

The UAE aspires to make progress towards realising its vision of becoming one of the top 25 countries for gender equality by 2021. There naturally comes a need to develop clear procedures and adopt concrete action plans to entrench gender parity practices in the workplace.


The UAE’s gender parity policies and the private sector

The 2015 Gender Balance Guide was launched together with the OECD and the Gender Balance Council to meet the objective of gender equality in the UAE. The guide serves as a vital resource to advance gender balance across government and private sector institutions by setting out best practices and policies to embed it more deeply into the culture of their organisations. It addresses key issues such as work conditions, merits, rights and responsibilities, with the aim of enhancing women’s participation in society and their contribution to economic development. Moreover, the Gender Balance Guide also aims to play a crucial role in fulfilling the UAE’s commitments to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which in turn will advance the nation’s position as a global role model for gender balance.

Despite their effort to reach gender equality in 2017 the global position of the UAE in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Gender Gap Index was the 120th with a low parity score of 0,649. (See Country Score Card on p16-17). The WEF’s findings show that the Middle East suffers from one of the widest gender gaps with women reaching only 40% of parity in the workplace. This is characterised by low labour force participation, a concerning wage difference between male and female and rarely are women found in roles in the legislative sector, as senior officials or in key management positions. As a result of this, the MENA region only captures 62%, hence loses 38% of its human capital potential and women thus represent a large body of latent talent.


Setting a strong tone from the top: A business response to the demand of women in the economy of the UAE

Acknowledging and investing in women can yield a significant return for the UAE. To fully capitalise on the gender dividend, however, the UAE and its private sector must go beyond policies that focus on discrimination and develop solid strategies aimed at integrating women at every level. This will require building a strong, dual-focused business case that considers women as both workers, consumers and suppliers. It must lay out the rationale behind why governments and organisations should look to women as key to their economic growth.

Establishing Gender Economic Governance is a fundamental pillar to the economy and sustainable development of the UAE. However, rooted in the industrial era, the current model operating in most organisations is to think of talent as a cost, and women as a niche group. But in the knowledge economy, talent is an asset, and women are key to both the talent and consumer marketplace.

What this requires, therefore, is a business response to what is essentially a business problem: An evaluation of the bottom line impact of investing in women. Assessing in real terms – revenues, profits, growth, productivity, customer satisfaction, or whatever metrics are used to deem a company successful.

What will be achieved by shifting the mindset, re-evaluating investments, and reconsidering the leadership model to reflect a more balanced mix of women and men as workers and consumers. Capturing this value requires a gender lens to analyse both the internal and external challenges facing the organisation: The impact of women internally as workers in the organisation and externally as the customers and suppliers.


Stakeholder platform – Enabling effective systemic interventions in the Private Sector

Step 1 - Large Scale Event Building Gender Economic Awareness on the ROI

Step 2 - Small Scale Events Stakeholder Platform for External Alignment and Engagement

Step 3 - Small Scale Events In-company Stakeholder Platform for Internal Alignment and Engagement

Step 4 - Gender Economic Governance In-company Implementation programmes


The private sector of the UAE needs to be gender economic ready by the end of 2020



MOHi’s ambition for the UAE

MOHi’s ambition for the UAE is to provide leadership of the global goals through the implementation of a national programme to establish gender economic governance in the private sector of the UAE; to support the achievement of the main targets of the 2021 vision, enable the leadership of the private sector to commit, invest and implement the necessary gender parity policy frameworks to achieve the national agenda, setting the necessary conditions for the private sector to absorb the national demand on gender capital and enable the empowerment of women to fully participate in the economy of the UAE at all levels.