Jan 12 2010
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Dubai Women Establishment Launches The Second Arab Women Leadership Forum
Two-day forum to explore Conceptions of Work-Life balance for working women
Dubai 12, January 2010: Dubai Women Establishment today launched the Second Arab Women Leadership Forum on the theme "'Women's Leadership in Organizations: Towards New Conceptions of Work-Life Balance'. The two-day forum, taking place on January 12-13, is a flagship annual conference organized by DWE. This year's forum explores the issue of work-life balance through the prism of organizational and government policies affecting the maintenance of equilibrium between family and work, as well as the obstacles and challenges working women face while attempting to maintain this crucial balance.
The forum was launched in the presence of and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and is lead by Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of DWE, wife of HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs.
In her opening address, Mona Al Marri, Chairperson of the Board of DWE, thanked His Highness for his continued support to the cause of women's empowerment in the UAE, "His Highness's wise leadership proves an inspiration to all women to face challenges in a dignified manner. His Highness' patronage of this initiative represents the important position women's empowerment plays in the UAE's overall strategy for development. The dreams of our women are the dreams of our nation, and we thank His Highness for his presence here today," said Al Marri.
Aisha Al Suwaidi, Director of Department of Women Leadership Development DWE, head of the organizing committee of the forum said: "We are privileged to host the Second Arab Women Leadership Forum and to welcome our guests from different parts of the world to share their experiences with us through the designated sessions organized over the course of the two-day program."
The panelists agreed that the provision of childcare facilities at the workplace is a fairly new development among organizations in the Middle East, so assessing the positive effects it has on the productivity of working women, as well as the quality of childcare provided will take some time. The panelists discussed differing opinions on whether the setting up of childcare centers on site helps reduce levels of preoccupation among women while simultaneously providing them with an incentive to devote more energy to their work. According to Dr Lootah, the expense to the employer in setting up these initiatives should be weighed against the benefits it provides in the long-term, to the organization in terms of reducing the number of women employees who chose to leave the workplace after having a child, and to society in general, in terms of helping to raise secure children and stable family units.
Al Bahar added, "The UAE needs to invest in developing its local human resources rather than depending on a foreign workforce. In addition, awareness needs to be raised to change traditional stereotypes that continue to view the women's role primarily as that of a caretaker and homebuilder and acknowledge the fact that women have moved into the professional sphere."
The opening session concluded with the consensus that the family unit has evolved to a point where both the mother and father collectively share financial and familial responsibilities, and childcare facilities and employment policies such as working hours and provision of nurseries on site need to be developed to meet the requirements of both. Both genders have an equal right to pursue the profession of their choice as well as to pursue positions of leadership, and it is a right rather than a concession to develop policies that enable them to do so.
The opening session was followed by the first panel discussion on 'Successful childcare initiatives: A case study' which featured a pilot project conducted by DWE called The National Kindergarten Program, which is dedicated to developing policies to look after the children of employees during work. The session was moderated by Dr Rafia Ghobash, Former President of the Arabian Gulf University, President of the Arab Network for Women in Science and Technology, United Arab Emirates. Panelists on the session include Shamsa Saleh, Director of Strategic Planning and Research, DWE; and Feryal Tawakul, Executive Director - Community Affairs and Government Partnership Division, Dubai Customs, UAE.
Participants of the forum were provided the opportunity to view a presentation on the successful implementation of the first child care center at Dubai Customs. The Child care centre was established as part of the National Childcare Project (NCC) launched in 2008 that encourages organizations to set up childcare facilities on site in line with a government directive to raise awareness in government departments on providing facilities that support women in the UAE's workforce.
Saleh discussed the key objectives of this initiative saying, "The objective of the NCC initiative is to support UAE women in the workplace, reduce the rate of women leaving the workforce, enhance child care and raise working women's productivity. To this regard, the feasibility study provided by DWE played a major role in understanding the opinions of working women as well as incorporating expert advice in setting up the first center at Dubai Customs. The success of this first initiative has prompted 161 federal and local departments in the UAE to express an interest in setting up similar childcare facilities for their own employees. The center provides an excellent quality of childcare provide by local caregivers in a cultural setting that is very similar to the family environment."
Tawakul then presented a short overview of Dubai Customs' experience in developing this initiative and the overwhelmingly positive response it has received from both female and male employees. Tawakul presented the results of a survey that indicated that more than 70% of employees noted an increase in productivity since the child care center's introduction. The centre has since developed further, adding English as a second language and is in the process of enabling older children (between the ages of 2-6) of male employees to also be enrolled as part of the center.
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