Women play a highly important role not just in the overall economic growth of a country but also in contributing towards the financial well-being of their families.
The UAE is no exception as a large chunk of the female population supports their families financially. But there is room for improvement as their contribution can make a a big difference in the nation's overall economic growth and the well-being of their families.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, if women's participation in the UAE is fully equal to men's, the nation's GDP can gain further by 16 per cent by 2025, which is equal to an overall gain of $101 billion, or $10,985 per person.
In terms of gender parity, the UAE has fared well on the sub-indexes of physical security and autonomy; essential services such as healthcare, education and financial and digital services; and gender equality at work.
Of the indicators used to measure gender parity, four specific issues? -? education, financial and digital inclusion, legal protection, and unpaid care work - have been identified that, if addressed, will do the most to achieve gender equality at work and generate significant progress towards realising economic gains.
The UAE leads the region with 100 marks in access to education for women; 59 points on access to financial services like bank accounts and digital payments, 98 marks on better access to the Internet and mobile phones; and 21 score on improved legal policies and protections that can help women enter the workforce.
Clare McColl, partner and head of Indirect Tax at KPMG Lower Gulf, said in the past, women largely occupied positions as teachers, nurses, human resource professionals, social workers or secretaries, because these professions demanded a higher degree of interpersonal skills that women were traditionally perceived to possess.
"Women's participation in technical fields, such as engineering and information and communications technology, tended to be low. However, this is changing rapidly in developed economies, where women occupy a significant number of positions in management in the public and private sector," she said.
According to a report by the IMF, as many as 180 million jobs for women are at high risk of being displaced globally due to new technologies and automation. However, the KPMG UAE Female Leaders Outlook report shows that women are entrepreneurial and well-prepared for a digital future.
McColl pointed out that in the UAE, organisations are integrating gender diversity as a core part of their strategic objectives and the UAE cabinet approved the issuance of legislation to ensure equal pay for men and women earlier this year.
"There has been some discussion around establishing quotas to ensure that women have a fair representation in the workforce, however, I believe that this should be merit-based. In fact, the UAE Female Leaders Outlook report indicated that only 3 per cent of women felt female leadership quotas were a crucial factor for their personal success," she added.
She noted that increased participation in the workforce means that women may influence resources and set examples for young children about gender equality from an early age. "It provides women with financial independence, which may drive greater prosperity for the household."
Benedetta Paravia, producer of 'Hi Dubai' series dedicated to women's empowerment, said the UAE offers a very successful model of a country where women empowerment is effective.
"If the young generation see role models such as Reem Al Hashemi, Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi, Shamma Al Mazruei and many more having position of great responsibility in the country, they will obviously aspire to get the same opportunity, even if in different sectors. To follow a good example is always the best way to motivate young women. On another prospective, sometimes financial issues are pushing women to work, this also depends very much of the incomes of the family. In both cases, having women to contribute actively to the society is definitely beneficial for everyone," she said.
Saana Azzam, founder of Mena Speakers forum, said female participation tends to be high in sectors that reflect nurturing abilities, such as educational services, social services, child care services, librarians and archivists.
"I think this is a prime example of how the progress we have made in encouraging women in the workforce is still in line with socialised gender norms. Sectors that seem to be more male-geared, such as technology and IT, legal services, accountancy, lack female contribution," she said.
She noted that the UAE has already taken the initiative to foster female participation in all sectors. However, classic interventionists and corrective measures should allow for more flexible working hours for women and mothers.
"This can take the form of allowing for longer maternity leaves, which in return will encourage women to come back. This ultimately avoids the loss of talent amongst the female population. Such changes can even begin with us. SMEs like us at Mena Speakers can pull their weight and contribute to the diversity opportunities out there," she added.
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