Gender Balance
Participants at the Gender Balance Forum, held under the patronage of Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council, at the World Government Summit in Dubai. Image Credit: WGS

Dubai: The Gender Balance Forum, held under the patronage of Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council (GBC), President of the Dubai Women Establishment, and the wife of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court, hosted a panel discussion titled ‘Public-Private Partnerships to Accelerate Gender Parity and Economic Development’ at the World Government Summit 2023 in Dubai.

The session was held in the presence of Mona Al Marri, Vice President of UAE Gender Balance Council, and panellists included Matthew Lewis, Managing Director of Russell Reynolds Associates; Elena Siegel, Partner, Kearney; and Sharief Fahmy, Executive Director, Kaman Corporation.

The panellists emphasised that achieving progress in gender balance is not the sole responsibility of governments, but rather a shared responsibility among the government, society, and the private sector. They highlighted the importance of enhancing societal awareness of balance and promoting equal opportunities for women in various sectors.

Goal for companies

The Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) Pledge to Accelerate Women’s Leadership in the UAE Private Sector, which was signed last year, sets a goal for companies to voluntarily increase women’s participation in middle and upper management leadership positions to 30% by 2025. This initiative serves as an inspiring model for the regional and global private sector, demonstrating a voluntary commitment to achieving national goals through policies, programmes, and initiatives, said the panellists.

During the panel discussion, which featured representatives from companies that signed the pledge, panellists expressed their pride in participating in this voluntary initiative. They emphasised the private sector’s eagerness to support the UAE’s vision and directions to achieve greater success in promoting gender balance locally and regionally. They also acknowledged the significant efforts of the UAE Gender Balance Council and its partnerships that have had a positive influence on the private sector’s commitment to realising this vision, which seeks to establish the UAE as one of the world’s leading countries in the field of gender balance.

Enhance women’s representation

Kaman’s Fahmy expressed his company’s commitment to the pledge and highlighted their excellent business relationships in the UAE, as the company continues to expand its footprint in supporting the aerospace manufacturing industry in the Emirates. Fahmy noted that Kaman has programmes in place to enhance women’s representation in various roles and at all levels to 50% by 2025.

He added that Kaman is dedicated to sharing intellectual property and advanced technologies to generate high-tech jobs and create value in the UAE. Fahmy also stressed the competency of Emirati women in the aviation and aeronautical engineering sectors, which is where the company seeks to invest. He expressed pride in the successes and achievements of Emirati women in the aviation sector, including their work as engineers, technicians, and pilots of military and civil aircraft.

Kearney’s Siegel emphasised the importance of collective responsibility in achieving prosperity in all societies and global economies, which she said was exemplified in the UAE, having achieved advanced levels of gender balance. Siegel noted that Kearney is a signatory to the pledge to accelerate the achievement of SDG 5, and is committed to promoting gender balance not only within the UAE, but also across its regional offices and companies worldwide.

Driving force

She highlighted Kearney’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness (DEI) leadership team as the driving force behind finding employment solutions and supporting women’s development and growth in their careers. Siegel noted that the company has several initiatives in place to support gender balance and runs an internal programme to groom women for future corporate leadership roles, reflecting on their career paths and supporting their progression and development within the company.

Siegel also underscored the role that public-private sector collaboration plays in achieving SDGs. She hailed the UAE private sector’s commitment to gender balance as a global model for achieving the SDGs, which lays the foundation for finding appropriate solutions to complex challenges in the private sector.

Russell Reynolds’ Lewis emphasised that diversity and inclusion are fundamental values at all levels and in various fields in his company. He expressed Russell Reynolds’ commitment to diversity in its leadership ranks and providing female employees with opportunities and qualifications, stating that the company is proud to have been one of the first to join the SDG 5 pledge to accelerate gender balance in the private sector.

Equitable future

Lewis added: “We take pride in our contributions to support the UAE’s aspirations for gender balance and to work towards a fair and equitable future. We have programmes for employment, promotion, and wage equality.” He stressed the importance of international organisations in helping countries facing gender balance challenges and the role of the private sector and society in those countries to achieve better levels.

The UAE Gender Balance Council is committed to strengthening its global partnerships as a critical aspect of its strategy. It aims to establish the UAE’s leadership and influence in the realm of gender balance and to increase the representation of women in leadership and the economy.

Gender policies

At the World Government Summit 2023, leaders and officials from the government and private sectors, as well as representatives of international organisations with expertise in gender policies, participated in discussions about the current status and opportunities for progress in gender balance and women’s participation in government, both locally and globally. The Gender Balance Forum and the Women in Government Forum, also held under the patronage of Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed, provided a platform for dialogue and collaboration to accelerate progress towards SDG 5.