Women in the UAE have come a long way beyond
expectations. They have made their mark in all the fields from flying aircraft, giving away court
decisions and forming policies to spearheading businesses and proving that they are no less than their male counterparts.
Women have played a major role in shaping the
economy of this young nation. According to the UAE Ministry of Economy, women in the country contribute to nearly half of the small-and-medium enterprise business setups and 48 percent of female business holders are the sole owners of their firms.
“Being a pioneer is all what UAE is about. We are blessed and encouraged to take
our first steps towards our visions and dreams,” says Lamya Abedin, celebrity fashion designer and sole owner of fashion label Queen of Spades.
Supported by a forward-looking constitution and a progressive government,
more and more Emirati women are coming
forward to take up challenging leadership roles. With over 90 percent literacy rate and 10 percent share in legislative and executive roles, they are making their presence felt.
UAE has made extraordinary strides towards development within a short span of time. The pace with which the nation has reached global heights, while treating both males and females equally, is a telltale example of progress.
Ilham Abbas, the Chief Strategy officer of Arab Fashion Council and owner of El Ilhaam groupm says, “UAE is a country
that facilitates everyone who is capable and
willing. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman,
the environment is so encouraging, the policies are so favourable — what else do you need to succeed.”
UAE leadership has shown exemplary steps – see the cabinet you will know how we (women) are trusted in this country. Women if have a clear vision and resilient aim, nothing can stop her, she points out.
Thanks to the impartial leadership, Emirati society has become an epitome of acceptance, tolerance and forward thinking. UAE is today cited as an example of what we call an ‘ideal nation’.
The fact that UAE is ranked 38th according to the Woman’s Empowerment Index speaks volumes. “We all know that when it comes to women, the UAE is one of the best countries in the region which promotes women’s education and empowerment. Women in the UAE have been encouraged and motivated to accomplish the best they can ever since the country was established,”
says Arwa Abdulla, branch manager – Mashreq Bank.
According to Heba Al Mansoori, founder & CEO of BIZ COM, women in power can contribute towards improving health, education, infrastructure and the eradication of
poverty. “I think the UAE is leading the way in achieving
gender equality – the region as a whole has a lot of catching up to do. If you look at the UAE, the vast majority of
college graduates are female so it would be safe to say that in the imminent future, economic growth will be
driven by educated women,” she says.
The success saga of Emirati women does not end here.
They are leaving no stones unturned to make a
difference in the society.
Emirates Business talks to a few Emirati
women who are an inspiration
Profession: Entrepreneur/Celebrity Fashion Designer
Company: Queen of Spades
“Women are the backbone – of any culture, of any society. They have the power, the ability and the passion for things and only a nation that respects its women can grow. UAE is an example in this sense,” says Lamya Abedin.
“I see myself having all the lines in the name of Queen of Spades – shoes, bags, accessories – everything. That is a dream I am working towards,” she quips as she talks about her professional goal.
Another one, she says, is to introduce abayas in a different way — make it more cosmopolitan, a wardrobe must for everyone regardless of their geographic or cultural preferences.
“Dubai is growing, it has made a name in the world, why is not the UAE national dress reaching that level of popularity that jeans, black dress, stilettoes have reached. We have to some extent made it possible. So I want to reach that level where other designers are getting inspired by us and creating their own lines,” says Lamya, who has designed costumes for many Hollywood celebrities.
Speaking about the role of UAE in ensuring success of female professionals, she says, “Nothing comes easy, but with perseverance, hard work, and having the vision to stand uniquely and show the world a new flavour, it will always work out even for women. Being an UAE designer doesn’t hinder our path at all in my opinion.”
“There’s always an opportunity in being unique, creative, and coming up with the un-ventured ideas regardless of our nationalities. Being a pioneer is all what the UAE is about. We are blessed and encouraged to take our first steps towards our visions and dreams. Dreams can always come true in the UAE. There’s no room for impossible,” she adds.
Profession/Occupation: Entrepreneur / Chief Strategy officer of Arab Fashion Council
Company: El Ilhaam group
An advocate of women’s rights, Ilham strongly supports any step taken towards empowerment of woman.
“Actually this is a topic that should be acted upon rather than just being talked about. UAE leadership has shown exemplary steps – see the cabinet you will know how we (women) are trusted in this country. Women if have a clear vision and resilient aim, nothing can stop her,” she says.
Ilham aims to be able to take herself to such level where she is inspiring everyone daily.
“I have rather created my business around this idea and I want to be an inspiration to all women,” she adds.
According to her, UAE is a country that facilitates everyone who is capable and willing.
“It does not matter if you are a man or a woman, the environment is so encouraging, the policies are so favourable –what else you need to succeed. The leadership is way to supportive and especially for women our leaders have always had a focus on females, their development and most importantly their upliftment,” she states.
Profession/Occupation: Entrepreneur/ Fashion designer
Company: Owner of fashion label – Fatema Al Fardan
Expressing her views on women empowerment, Fatema says, “I consider myself a new generation feminist and a strong advocate for women’s rights. I encourage women to sit at the table and not be afraid to voice their opinions. I want women to be formidable even if some are not given enough freedom they should strive to be the black sheep and be the reason for change.”
One of the issues she believes, with women, is that they fear rejection and look for acceptance.
“We are afraid to be viewed as aggressive but the truth is that the more women decide to stand up with confidence and push for what they want, the more this (women empowerment) will translate to reality,” she says.
Fatema has clearly charted out how she plans to grow. “In ten years, I hope to have my own charity organization that helps impoverished women and children in developing countries. I would say that this is my ultimate dream and on my bucket list,” she shares her professional plans.
Fatema opines the beauty of the UAE is that it’s leaders and society are open to the presence of woman in the workforce and frequently emphasis the important role that woman are already playing.
“His Highness Sheikh Zayed (may his soul rest in peace) was the largest supporter of women and it was his vision that paved the way to what we have today. That is why he will always remain in our hearts and we will never forget him. HH Sheikh Zayed always encouraged expats and Emirati women equally in the workforce and if you look at old videos of him you can see him talking about equality between the genders,” she points out.
Profession/Occupation: Branch Manager, Jumeirah branch
Company: Mashreq Bank
Arwa, a strong supporter of women in business and especially financial fields like banking, says, “I believe there isn’t any industry that is not considered for women, or that women are not destined to crack the barriers. We see many Emirati women being attracted towards the financial sector and continue to grow in it. I believe that any individual who has the passion and enthusiasm to achieve his/her goal can break any barriers that comes their way during the process.”
“On a personal level, I am a person who always believes that women are never inferior to men in any segment of business worldwide. Yes, in old ages, women weren’t either educated enough or self-independent to achieve outstanding results in a career, but now they are equally educated and self-independent as men, which has opened doors for us to contribute towards the growth of the economy,” she adds.
Arwa sees herself improving to become more knowledgeable and a more experienced banker.
“That is what I am aiming for. I would like to be able to
have the platform to add value to the banking industry via simplified and sophisticated technology based financial solutions. Given the recent researches, technology will play a bigger
part in our lives and we must leverage that in the banking industry,” she says.
“We all know that when it comes to women, the UAE
is one of the best countries in the region which
promotes women’s education and empowerment. Women in the UAE have been encouraged and motivated to accomplish
the best they can ever since the country was established,”
she points out.
“This plan is spearheaded by the country’s leadership and backed by the UAE constitution, which guarantees equal rights for men and women in accordance with the precepts of Islam. As a result, the role of women in society has evolved tremendously over the years,” she explains.
“Today, the economic and social benefits of diversity are universally recognised and embraced. Women are viewed as partners in achieving sustainable development,” Arwa adds.
Contributing to economy
Name: Heba Al Mansoori
Company: Founder & CEO of BIZ COM
Talking about the pioneering role that the UAE is playing in the field of women empowerment, Heba says UAE is leading the way in achieving gender equality – the region as a whole has a lot of catching up to do.
“If you look at the UAE, the vast majority of college graduates are female so it would be safe to say that in the imminent future, economic growth will be driven by educated women,” she says.
“Women in power can contribute towards improving health, education, infrastructure and the eradication of poverty,” she adds.
Founder of PR agency BIZ COM, Heba says about 55 per cent of her team is made up of women and they contribute substantially and meaningfully to the productive output of the firm.
“Even in my other companies, I make sure to hire suitably qualified women for the right jobs. To me gender is not such a big deal – educational qualifications, skills, attitude and temperament are more important,” she says.
Sating that UAE has made considerable strides towards empowering its women and bringing more of them to the forefront in both public and private sector, she says, “Look at the number of women that occupy positions of power both in the public sector and private sector, which show that women are making a significant contribution to the UAE economy.”