In 2015, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the UAE Gender Balance Council (GBC). Here’s what you need to know about this federal body, established to enhance the role of women in the UAE.
Why was it established?
The Gender Balance Council was established to empower women while enhancing their role in the nation. In the UAE, more women graduate from universities than men, but there’s a gender gap when it comes to workforce demographics. The Council aims to close this gender gap by helping female graduates break into the workforce, and consistently boosting their visibility within organizations so they grow into senior roles.
The GBC is chaired by Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, the president of Dubai Women Establishment.
The UAE is currently 41st on the international gender equality index but aspires to be in the global top 25 by 2021.
“The impact of a significant female presence in leadership roles has wide-ranging benefits on the economy, on governance, and on society at large,” Sheikha Manal says. “The UAE has always worked to dismantle barriers that create tension between the genders. We have a great opportunity to uncover new paths that we may walk on together”.
Gender Balance Guide
GBC launched a Gender Balance Guide in September, developed in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The guide is to help organizations promote gender balance at all levels.
The guide offers a comprehensive set of instructions for helping staff adopt a “gender-sensitive approach” in the office. It was launched at the World Government Summit in Dubai this year by GBC vice president, HE Mona Al Marri.
“I do believe that one woman can have the worth of a thousand men in the workforce,” says Sheikh Mohammed at the World Government Summit.
“This initiative further strengthens our efforts to reduce the gender gap across all sectors, enhance the UAE’s ranking in global competitiveness reports on gender equality and achieve gender balance in decision-making positions, as well as promote the UAE as a model for gender balance,” says Sheikha Manal.
In addition to a framework businesses can use, the guide also includes practical information like HR tools, best practice and policy guidelines, and tips to promote work-life balance, equal pay and job opportunities.
In June 2017, the GBC reviewed the preliminary results of the gender balance index across federal government entities. The meeting, chaired by Mona Al Merri, vice-president of the Council, discussed topics including pension entitlements for the families of deceased female employees, the Council’s brand identity, and updates on the UAE Gender Balance Guide, made for businesses in the nation to adopt more inclusive practices.
After discussions with the General Pension and Social Security Authority, the GBC revealed a clear gap in pension entitlements for heirs of deceased female employees, compared to those of deceased male employees, despite the similarity of their responsibilities.
The GBC will collaborate with the pension’s authority to amend the law for equal treatment for the heirs of both female and male employees.
Extended maternity leave in the public sector
The public sector in the UAE can already feel the winds of change. Now, public sector workers are eligible for a longer period of paid maternity leave, an initiative in place to make it easier for women to return to work after childbirth.
“This guide will help organizations deeply embed a culture of gender balance in their operations and strategic framework,” GBC Vice President Al Marri says.
“This important new initiative is closely aligned with the UAE Vision 2021’s aim to enhance the participation of women in the economy.”
Sheikh Mohammed’s vision
Also speaking at the World Government Summit, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai outlined the nation’s vision for gender balance as a crucial part of the UAE’s future.
“We don’t boast perfection”, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum says. But the UAE does have “advanced qualities in leadership and management”.
“We still learn every day and we waste no time because for us, time is like a running river. The experiment of the UAE speaks for itself for whoever wants to emulate it.”
According to Sheikh Mohammed, the Arab world has many failures when it comes to promoting gender equality, especially in management. Yet, he does believe that change is in the air.
“One woman can have the worth of a thousand men in the workforce,” he adds. “In the UAE, women hold a third of the roles in the federal government, and in the coming years we will see 50% of the members of the council in the UAE be female.”