How Organisations in the UAE Can Improve Gender Equality in the Workplace?

March 7, 2024 hr-observer-women-genderreform

There is a definitive case to be made for imbibing gender diversity in the modern workplace. A gender balanced, inclusive workplace not only reflects social equity but also unleashes the full spectrum of talent that women offer, scaling up capacity for innovation and creativity across the board.

Today, gender diversity goes beyond being a moral imperative; it has become an economic necessity. Data shows that a larger female representation in the workforce could potentially add nearly US$2 trillion to the GDP of the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The unique skills, experiences, and leadership styles that these women bring to the table thus not only fosters innovation but contributes to overall corporate success. 

Scaling inclusivity

One simple fact remains: change cannot occur overnight. However, there are conscious, practical steps that can help contribute to building workplaces where employees profit from opportunities and continuous professional development, regardless of their gender. 

In the UAE, we benefit from the zeal displayed by the government. The UAE has made commendable strides in narrowing the gender gap, throwing its weight behind initiatives such as the UAE Gender Balance Council Strategy 2026. Sector-specific programs, like the “Challenger Programme” further underscore the government’s commitment to boosting female participation in industries traditionally dominated by men.

These efforts are paying off. The UAE boasts the highest gender parity in the MENA region, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023. Recent data from the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) indicates a substantial growth of 23.1% in women’s participation in the private sector in 2023 compared to the previous year. This surge is attributed to changing economic and social factors, including a rise in tertiary education enrolment among women.

What more can be done?

Inarguably, there is room to do plenty more. If anything, these initiatives serve as stepping stones for the private sector to collaborate and align their own workplace gender diversity and inclusivity policies with those of the government.

Conducting a thorough review of the gender balance rates within the organisation serves as a crucial starting point, which can help identify gaps and areas for improvement to pave the way for meaningful change.

A top-down approach and leadership commitment to gender diversity and inclusion is vital, fostering an inclusive corporate culture where all employees feel valued and heard. This can be further enhanced by realigning internal policies.

Insights show that flexible working hours, the ability to work remotely and a good work-life balance can contribute to greater female representation in the workforce. Introduce flexible work policies, implement blind recruitment processes, establish mentorship programmes and set clear targets for female representation at all levels, especially in leadership positions.

Organisations can further boost gender inclusivity through internal awareness campaigns and training programmes, to address unconscious biases that stem from traditional or cultural norms. 

Achieving gender balance in the workplace requires continuous efforts at both organisational and societal levels. An inclusive workplace culture not only bolsters employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention rates but also positions companies to attract top talent. By doing so, we stand to not only enhance competitiveness at regional and global levels but also contribute to the UAE’s broader goal of creating a diverse and equitable society. 

This International Women’s Day, let us commit to driving change and building a future where gender equality is not just an aspiration but a reality.

Editor’s Note: This year, The HR Observer celebrates International Women’s Day by rolling out different perspectives on how to empower women.

Deirdre Fitzsimons

Executive Vice President, Business Partnering, Group People & Culture, Al Ghurair

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