It was 10 years ago when the skyline of Dubai was lit up with fireworks and its streets filled with exhilarated revellers celebrating its win as the first Middle Eastern city to host a World Expo.

This would be a first time in the more than a century-old history of the Paris-headquartered Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) that the Expo would be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region, with member countries voting overwhelmingly for Dubai’s ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ submission. 

Leading Dubai’s winning bid was UAE Minister of State Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, who was to become Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai and is a true ambassador of UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s belief that women are and must be equal partners in the building of a nation. 


The UAE’s early adoption of gender diversity had appealed to the bureau’s voting panel. Here was a bid from a young nation already demonstrating that gender inclusion results in organisational equanimity, with a government with 20% female minister representation.

From the outset, Expo 2020 Dubai was committed to creating meaningful impact – an evergreen blueprint for a more balanced, equitable, human-centric world, showcased in a Dubai that was increasingly recognised for its sustainability and inclusiveness, the latter a guiding principle of COP 28, which is being hosted at Expo City Dubai later this year.

Gender equality has been part of the UAE’s DNA for over 50 years and this was showcased at  Expo 2020 Dubai’s Women’s Pavilion – the first Women’s Pavilion at a World Expo in the 21st century.

Living on as an integral part of Expo 2020’s legacy city, Expo City Dubai, it continues to attract global attention, with content that encapsulates the achievements of female endeavour and the unlimited possibilities that empowerment can bring.

A place for everyone, the Women’s Pavilion demonstrates an important principle: when women thrive, humanity thrives. The exhibition journey reaffirms a commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and emphasises that the only way to peace, prosperity, and sustainability is through the full and equal participation of women.


What is being curated and displayed at the Women’s Pavilion is a thought-provoking, colourful, family-friendly platform, an experience that entertains and educates visitors in equal measure, and that inspires action – even more significant in 2023, the UAE’s Year of Sustainability.

In one space small phrases underline big economic concepts. Facts such as “Women CEOs add 5% to their company’s value” highlight potential versus reality with recent intelligence from Fortune magazine revealing only 10% of companies on 2023’s Fortune Global 500 are headed by female CEOs.

Globally there is a long way to go to achieve complete gender equality at grassroots or blue-chip level, but the Women’s Pavilion remains a hub of inspiration.

It is now established as a living space for inclusive and high-level debate and epitomises the best practices of Expo City Dubai overall. The first event in the 2023 programme was a fireside chat with Her Excellency Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, UAE permanent representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), who spoke about equality in relation to access to clean energy and the energy transition. These themes of sustainability and unity underpinned the agenda that Dubai is setting as preparations for the United Nations Climate Change conference gather pace. As HE Dr Nawal said: “We are all responsible as a global community on those international global platforms to change perception, change ideas and misconceptions about the roles and the importance of human engagement. When it comes to climate debate and climate change, we all need to be part of that discussion.”

Indeed, Expo City Dubai’s International Women’s Day flagship event, held recently at the Women’s Pavilion, celebrated the achievements of women at the forefront of saving the planet and highlighted the critical role of women in accelerating the transition to a more sustainable world.

Expo City Dubai will continue to drive gender equality, catalysing dialogue that will support social progress with a firm belief in the principle that when women thrive, humanity thrives.