Abu Dhabi: For Emirati women, there is little concern about reaching the glass ceiling, because they’ve already broken it.
Nearly a third of the country’s ministers are women, and passionate women make up 50 per cent of the UAE’s parliamentary body, the Federal National Council.
What’s more, women of the UAE routinely report feeling empowered, and aware that they can achieve just about anything that they set their minds to. The empowerment is legislated by the country’s leaders, but also enabled and realised by families at every phase of a woman’s life.
For a country that is just 49 years old, this kind of gender equality is indeed admirable.
“I started my career in 2013 as a safety engineer in health care. I was blessed to have received this mentorship, as I was the only woman and Emirati in the field at the time. Because I was outgoing and eager to learn, I was also given difficult tasks to build my skills and knowledge in the area of health care safety and disaster management. This supported my career development, enabling me to already become senior manager of two functions at [this prestigious hospital],” Sara Raad Al Ameri, 30, told Gulf News. Al Ameri is senior manager of Health and Safety, as well as Emergency Management, at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. She got to her current position by studying industrial engineering.
Pioneers in various fields
“This was not a field of education that women chose nor was it available before my time. When I graduated, my batch included only three other women and more than twenty men. I was the only Emirati among the women,” she recollected.
Like her, Hamda Al Shehhi, 31, also pursued a degree in engineering, and is now a safeguards specialist at the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, the country’s nuclear regulator. She is also serving as the chair of the entity’s Youth Council. “My Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, and my MBA, helped improve my knowledge and skills in different areas. This was reflected clearly in my daily work and helped me increase my effectiveness and efficiency at work,” Al Shehhi said.
Emirati women like Al Shehhi and Al Ameri are routinely encouraged to better their skills, and reach newer heights in their professional fields.
“I am very blessed to have supportive parents and my husband behind me. My line of work requires that I am able to respond to emergency situations at the hospital at any given time. Whether it be 5 AM or 11 PM on any day of the week, a 30-minute response time is crucial. Having three kids at home aged two, four and six is tricky while juggling other responsibilities. [But having] a supportive husband has made is much easier for me to focus on my job, which makes the entire experience more rewarding, and empowers me to do more for both my family and country,” Al Ameri explained.
They are also playing strategic roles in new, emerging industries in the country, like the nuclear and space sectors. “Family support is [crucial for] success, and a supportive family and partner are blessings that create a comfortable and healthy environment for development. As Emirati women, all the opportunities were always open to me, starting from basic education to higher education and job opportunities. I’m lucky to be part of this amazing country, which believes in women empowerment women’s abilities,” Al Shehhi added.
In fact, women are not only empowered in the UAE but also recognised for their achievements. Al Ameri said this has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are very lucky and blessed to have that support from leadership so that we all have an opportunity to succeed,” she added.
Looking forward, this push towards women’s development looks no signs of abating in the UAE. Every year, the country steps forward to celebrate Emirati Women’s Day on August 28. This year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, reiterated the promise, saying that the UAE leadership remains “committed to the empowerment of all women”.