Emirati women have long championed social and economic change in the United Arab Emirates, playing an integral role in the country’s growth and progression.

Challenging any norms or preconceived notions, they have transformed the country’s professional climate, taking on some of the most sought-after leadership positions within the public and private sector.

The Emirati women of tomorrow will play an important role in the future development of the United Arab Emirates, and the private sector can play a pivotal role in catalysing their progression.

Professionals Increasing

The number of working Emirati women has increased dramatically since 1975 as the United Arab Emirates continues to redefine the role of women. A little over 40 years ago, only 1,000 Emirati women were actively contributing to the nation’s workforce and economy, mostly through conventional and traditional careers.

Recent official statistics found that a total of 135,000 Emirati women today hold a professional career, of which an impressive 67 per cent have leadership positions within government entities, while 33 per cent assume highly specialized and technical jobs in the private sector.

Currently, over 20,000 Emirati women are responsible for projects worth more than 40 billion dirhams across various industries and sectors. This is a truly remarkable feat. Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimi, Emirates Minister of State and Managing Director for the Dubai World Expo 2020, also epitomises the entrepreneurial spirit of female Emiratis. A champion of innovation and forward thinking, Al Hashimi is the mastermind behind the multi-billion Expo 2020 project designed to accelerate the UAE’s future growth.

Several programs have been launched by the UAE to further develop the capabilities of female Emirati leaders: Most notably, the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Emirati Women in the UAE. The ambitious initiative, started by Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak in 2002, was relaunched and updated in 2015, reinforcing the nation’s commitment to empower its female population and aiming to provide Emirati women with opportunities in all sustainable and developmental fields.

The Dubai Women’s Establishment recently celebrated the graduation of 14 female Emirati leaders from their ‘disruptor’ programme which was created to help Emirati women leverage their full potential.

Private Sector

While the UAE government and General Women’s Union have developed the overarching national framework for Emirati women, the private sector can play a leading role in helping create the female leaders of tomorrow, today. In fact, earlier this year, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has acknowledged the need to increase the number of Emiratis working in the private sector.

As a result, over 9,000 jobs were created for the national population, including 1,000 jobs in the banking and finance sector. Banking, particularly, provides ample opportunity – women make up 70% of nationals employed in the UAE’s banking sector, which is one of the highest rates of working Emirati women when compared to other sectors in the country. In fact, Emirati women have become so influential within the banking sector that Emirates NBD, a leading banking institution in the UAE, appointed its first female CEO earlier this year.

Despite mandatory Emiratisation quotas and efforts by the Ministry of Human Resources, Emirati women make up only 10 percent of the private sector workforce. Government jobs are more appealing to Emirati women because they are viewed to offer more opportunity.

Incentives

So, what can employers in the private sector do to attract and retain top Emirati female talent? A recent government report has shown that Emirati women seeking to join the workforce look for more flexibility, career growth and competitive pay. Shorter working hours and longer maternity leaves can help create a flexible working environment, while enticing bonus schemes and benefits can offer competitive packages for Emirati women.

As younger Emirati women become more open to different work opportunities and challenges, training and mentorship becomes key. The diverse workforce of the private sector can offer ambitious Emirati females the opportunity to work with leaders from diverse sectors, thus offering a wide range of valuable insights and perspectives. In addition, interactive workshops and leadership programmes can help refine and develop public-sector specific skills.

Emirati women make up two thirds of the national population. We are all responsible to help them achieve their full potential in the development of this country. We must pave the way for future generations today, so they can build the nation of tomorrow.

This article was first published in Emirates News 24|7