Gender equality discussions find a place in Aurora50 board summit

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Global leaders should focus on gender equality as they seek effective ways to achieve economic growth, the UAE economy minister said.

In his opening remarks at the Aurora50 Board Summit today Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri said, “We believe gender equality is a key part of the UAE’s global competitiveness.”

In 2018, the United Nations Human Development Report found that the UAE had the highest degree of equality between men and women in the GCC, with a large number of women in the workplace and more women pursuing higher education than men.

According to data, In 1975, women constituted just over 2 percent of Emirati’s workforce but by 2018 this had risen to 28 percent.

Mr Al Marri added that the UAE Vision 2021 aims to achieve maximum inclusion of women in decision-making roles and highlighted progress that has been achieved in this direction.

More than half of university graduates in the UAE are women, as are two-thirds of government employees.

There is still room for improvement as just 3.5 percent of women hold directorship positions on the public company board level, he said.

He added that the rules for corporate governance in the UAE stipulate that women make up no less than 20 percent of a board of directors.

“Gender-balanced boards are integral to the society we are building and to the vision of our founders,” said Aurora50 co-founder Sheikha Shamma Al Nahyan at the virtual summit.

Founded last year, Aurora50 is a social enterprise bringing together various stakeholders to find solutions to global problems. Its Board Summit, which is being held on 25 and 26 August, focuses on gender diversity at board level.

Aurora50 unveiled the “20 for 2020 initiative” in March, offering 20 women a year-long placement on a company board to empower them for potential opportunities to join the board. Further, the program provides executive coaching, networking and training in media and finance.

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company has been the scheme’s “anchor partner,” picking the first two out of the 20 participants. It was also joined by five major financial institutions – Abu Dhabi Global Market, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Financial Market and Nasdaq Dubai.

Sheikha Shamma said that long-held “cultural barriers” have “been an obstacle” where the norm in the UAE was “meetings of men only.” Yet she said today, with levels of education and participation in the workforce increasing, women need to be an equal and vital part of economic growth for the country.

“Now it is up to everyone to realize this untapped potential and for women to take on positions that will help them make a difference,” she concluded.