The embrace of diversity initiatives is becoming commonplace across workplaces in the UAE. As organisations seek to gain broader perspectives and enriched insights to shape decisions and business strategies, companies are finding salient benefits in the role diversity can play.

A similar rhetoric is being applied at board level. On many fronts, diversity initiatives are being incorporated within agendas and talent frameworks for many key entities across the public and private sectors. However, age diversity often remains an overlooked element in the overall diversity matrix.

But this sentiment is changing.

Making room for the youth

In the UAE, our Emirati youth are heralded as a window to the future. This notion is backed by the country’s leadership, which has earmarked the budding youth segment as a key area of focus for future development at public sector level.

Following a landmark decree by the UAE cabinet in June, government entities and companies are now being encouraged to increase the participation of youth at board level. By calling on all government entities to include at least one young Emirati below the age of 30 on the board of directors, this promising motion is playing a direct role in stimulating the UAE’s future progress.

Diversifying the voices

As the nation is steered towards dynamic social and economic growth, it is crucial to have younger voices present at the helm of key decision-making processes. Across the board, we are witnessing a big shift in workforce equality — something that is being instilled in organisations thanks to pioneering visions of the UAE leaders.

However, if age diversity can also be championed at public and private sector levels, this will enhance youth’s role in society and governance; empower them to overcome challenges and opportunities of tomorrow; it will ensure their voices are heard, viewpoints seen, and that these are included in future frameworks; and it will enable them to adequately contribute to the UAE’s development.

This is exciting for a number of reasons, the most prominent one being that this paves a clear pathway for private sector companies to follow suit. It’s in the private sector’s best interests to adopt boardrooms that feature a visage of youth.

Not just a target for government agencies If the UAE leadership’s model for board engagement with Emirati youth is applied to the private sector, the combined effort of all industries could provide striking results for the overall empowerment of the UAE’s growth.

At du, age diversity is a big part of the equation. Developing and retaining talent from diverse backgrounds is imperative in today’s modern business climate. This is why we are strong advocates for building a culture of collaboration to develop a happy, balanced workforce that embraces diversity and inclusion.

The momentum for adopting youth talent goes beyond the walls of our organisation too. In alignment with the National Youth Strategy, the launch of the du Youth Council is playing a vibrant role in addressing the needs and concerns for Emirati youth as the seek to shoulder the responsibilities of the future economic landscape.

Whether operating at private or public sector level, I believe the aim should be to empower youth and equip them to lead sustainable future initiatives and fostering their ideas and talents.

Honed through the recent developments, the nation is on track to create meaningful strategic priorities for Emirati youth in their home country. Tomorrow’s ideas lie in the hands of today’s youth.

By empowering the leaders of tomorrow, they will be able to bring fresh ideas to the fore that could herald innovation both regionally and globally, as well as maintain the pioneering momentum of the UAE as a global economic powerhouse.

I believe it’s time that the private sector takes the public sector’s initiative into account and inducts more Emirati’s on to boards and senior leadership teams to accelerate this momentum for the larger benefit of the business ecosystem. The future belongs to our Emirati youth, and empowering them to share their views at board level is one step closer to building the podium for their success.

Getting youth “on board” is the first step. The second phase involves getting them on boards.

Abdulwahed Juma is Executive Vice-President for Brand and Corporate Communications, du.