- Women’s empowerment is an ideal that is deeply ingrained in the ethos of the UAE and the vision of its leadership, says H.E. Mona Al Marri, Director General of Dubai Media Office
Your Excellency, you are considered one of the most influential Arab women in the Government sector in the Middle East drawing sharp focus to the extraordinary rise of women in leadership in the UAE. How has the engagement of women in the workforce changed the professional environment in the UAE and how important is policy in effecting these changes?
Women’s empowerment is an ideal that is deeply ingrained in the ethos of the UAE and the vision of its leadership. The founding fathers of the UAE recognised very early that sustainable growth is not possible without engaging and empowering women. This vision inspired an entire society, touching everyone from families to universities to business organisations.
Summits like the ABLF are an opportunity to highlight the role of leadership in generating new growth.
The UAE has further built on the early vision of its founding fathers - today it offers a unique model for women’s empowerment and gender balance. Women have reached the highest levels of leadership in this country. UAE has nine women ministers – almost one third of the entire cabinet. Women make up 66 per cent of government workers and 30 per cent of them are in leadership roles. The UAE has put in place various policies, structures and mechanisms to ensure high levels of women’s participation in every sphere of life. When I see young women in the UAE today, they are full of optimism and hope; they are full of ideas and they dream big – which is a real sign of their empowerment.
Policy initiatives are key to enhancing women’s empowerment and gender balance. A law to ensure women are paid an equal salary to their male colleagues was approved by the UAE Cabinet last year.
At the Gender Balance Council, we constantly review existing practices and legislation to recommend new policies to support the growth, participation and wellbeing of women. For example, on the Council’s recommendation, the UAE government amended laws to expand fully paid maternity leave for federal government women employees from six weeks to 3 months.
Your roles as Chair of Dubai Women’s Establishment Board, which is considered one of the most active organisations in the field of women empowerment in the region, as well as Vice President of the Gender Balance Council, are both powerful as they are catalysts of positive change. How would you share this experience and knowledge with the rest of Asia to empower other Governments and communities?
The UAE’s success in achieving high levels of gender balance is an example not only for the region but for the whole world. The country has often been acknowledged in international forums as a global model for gender balance and a benchmark for legislation in this area. We actively share the UAE’s experience in advancing the gender balance agenda through international outreach and representation, as well as through partnerships, collaborations, by participating in global conferences, and by conducting knowledge sharing sessions. For example, in 2017, the UAE Gender Balance Council launched the ‘Global Gender Circle’ initiative, at the United Nations in New York. This was a series of meetings focused on accelerating one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals’ of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. Following that, we held the second edition of the Global Gender Circle in co-ordination with the Ministry of Finance. This was hosted by the IMF in Washington DC. The third edition, held last year, was hosted by the UAE Embassy in Belgium in Brussels. We are very open to working closely with other countries to share the experiences, best practices and expertise gained in our journey.
The ABLF is a global Asian event that continues to bring the finest minds of Asia together in Dubai in conversation and collaboration. As the Director General of the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), what is the role of leadership summits like the ABLF in promoting authentic and principle-centred leadership and the 21st century values of innovation and sustainability?
By recognising exceptional leaders and providing a platform for sharing inspirational success stories and thought-provoking new ideas, summits such as this are an opportunity to highlight the role of leadership in generating new waves of growth. Such summits also help to create a powerful network of current, emerging and future leaders who can work together to enhance innovation and sustainable progress. As one of the world’s leading hubs for knowledge exchange and dialogue, Dubai has been at the forefront of hosting events that help advance leadership development. As the Director General of the Government of Dubai Media Office, one of my key focuses is on advancing leadership development in the media sector. We do this through a range of regional events like the annual Arab Media Forum and programmes aimed at further developing the strategic communication capabilities of senior leaders in Dubai’s key organisations.
How do you rate the media landscape including social media in the UAE?
The UAE is home to a vibrant media industry. Many of the world’s prominent media companies have set up a base here. The country is a world leader in early adoption of new technology, and this applies to our media sector as well. The UAE has one of the highest penetrations of social media in the world with over 99 per cent of the population being active social media users. This creates a very dynamic market for new media technologies. I foresee our media sector not just becoming users, but also generators of innovation. We have the right conditions for creating a global hub for new media innovation here in the UAE.
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