Dubai: The Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), the official representative organisation for professional business women and female entrepreneurs working in Dubai, has partnered with the United Nations (UN), it announced at a press conference on Monday.
The partnership is designed to support the UAE’s drive for greater female participation in the workforce, in line with the UN Women Empowerment Principles.
The DBWC has struck an alliance with the UN Global Compact UAE Local Network (UNGC), an initiative started by Kofi Annan in 1999, which today is the world’s largest corporate sustainability programme, upholding ten principles in the categories of human rights, labour rights, environmental stewardship and anticorruption.
Female participation in the workforce across the GCC remains some of the lowest in the world, and as a result one of the key themes of the announcement was its commitment to gender balance in the UAE.
“Joining forces with the United Nations Global Compact UAE Local Network represents a historic milestone for Dubai Business Women Council and underlines the instrumental role the Council has played in spearheading the UAE’s national agenda to ensure women’s rights are at the forefront of national progress,” said Dr Raja Eisa Saleh Al Gurg, President of DBWC.
She added that, “this partnership will serve as a key contributor in the UAE Vision 2021 objective of seeing the Emirates rank as one of the world’s top 25 countries for gender balance.”
There have been some improvements in recent years, spurred on by government initiatives in the UAE, such as the establishment of the UAE Gender Balance Council in 2015. The private sector has followed suit, with free nursery services at offices and flexible working hours, whilst over half of the businesses in the GCC consider gender diversity to be part of their strategic agenda, according to research conducted by consultancy A.T. Kearney in 2016.
Despite this, challenges still persist for working women in the UAE.
According to research conducted in 2016 by Oxford Strategic Consulting, females in the UAE were “significantly more likely than males to mention awareness of jobs (37 per cent vs. 27 per cent), suitability of jobs (37 per cent vs. 25 per cent) and knowing how to approach companies (27 per cent vs. 15 per cent) as difficulties encountered on the job search,” whilst 44 per cent of respondents identified “cultural barriers” and a “lack of support” as the top challenges women face, in a separate survey conducted by A.T. Kearney.
In addition to this, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that in 2008-9, the participation of female Emiratis in the UAE’s workforce was the second lowest in the GCC (25 per cent, compared to the leader, Kuwait, which saw 45 per cent female participation in the same year). The only country with a lower rate of participation was Saudi Arabia.
Al Gurg questioned the accuracy of these figures when asked about them by Gulf News, stating “I cannot agree with this. It should still not be that low given the initiatives that have taken place here in the UAE.”
Responding to a question from Gulf News regarding the private sector’s struggle to achieve government targets of gender balance in the workforce, Dr Al Gurg argued that women working for private companies should be afforded the same hours as their counterparts in the public sector, leaving the office at around 1-2pm.
In 2012, a report by the consultancy Booz & Company highlighted how the UAE economy could benefit greatly from more women in the workplace: raising female employment to male levels could have a direct effect on GDP of 12 per cent.
Source: gulfnews.com Originally published on January 8th, 2017.