Promoting gender equality has been an important issue in the last 20 years and has once again emerged during the World Tolerance Summit, which is taking place in Dubai from November 13th to 14th. At the summit, speakers and educators are stressing the issues facing working women worldwide, with the aim of providing answers, changing perspectives and eventually bridging the cultural gap regarding gender equality.
In the Mena region (Middle East and North Africa), only 26% of women work, the main reason being the cultural barriers that limit work freedom. The Brooklyn Institution found that Jordanian men’s attitudes towards women working are more conservative than ever before.
Speakers at the conference stressed that the role of government is crucial in solving gender inequality in the work sector.
In the UAE, the Council of Ministers formed the Emirates Council for Gender Balance with the aim of supporting the UAE's position locally and internationally. The Council aims to reduce the gender gap and achieve a balance between genders in decision-making positions in order to achieve the UAE’s aim to be among the top 25 countries in the gender balance index by 2021. The Council has presented innovative initiatives and projects that contribute to gender equality at work and make the UAE a role model in this aspect.
Guest speaker Rana Nawas, creator and host of the podcast ‘When Women Win’, said, “The UAE government has been the first in the Middle East to give great importance to working women in various sectors. There are female ministers in the UAE and female entrepreneurs who carry out their jobs freely with no restrictions.”
“Companies should review their policies as well as rules and regulations to be more inclusive of women and integrate them in the work force more successfully” Nawas added.
Commenting on the government’s role in promoting women’s rights in the job sector, Claudia Massei, CEO of Simens, based in Oman, said that the UAE recognises and values women’s unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services and infrastructure, the development of social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the family.
Massei added that the promotion of women’s rights started in the UAE on February 8th, 1973, when the Association for the Advancement of Women of Abu Dhabi was established.
The UAE has made great efforts to promote the role of women in society following the establishment of associations in various emirates. Speaker Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak pointed out the necessity of keeping up with the unifying concepts of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE.
Since then, the UAE has introduced a number of initiatives to empower women economically. In December, 2012, the UAE government issued a decree requiring Emirati women to serve on the boards of federal bodies, corporations, and institutions.