Women in the UAE Making Significant Strides in the Finance Industry

Statistics reveal that women constitute 70% of the workforce of nationals employed in the banking field in the UAE. It is noteworthy that it is by far one of the highest representation of working Emirati women across all sectors. However, women breaking the corporate glass ceiling and rising to C-suite leadership roles is still to be seen as majority are still below the board level.

Let’s take a look at the reasons that have led to the uptick and empowerment of women in the present day:

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Rising Aspirations of Emirati Women

In spite of numerous challenges, including the societal expectations on women to stick to their traditional roles as homemakers, it is a welcome change to see more and more women stepping out of the threshold of their homes and forging their own identity and being vocal on a lot of issues. It is significant to note that the UAE has the leading position in the number of STEM business women in the region amidst a growing trend of entrepreneurship.

Increasing Avenues for Women in Finance

The Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) proffers education programmes, training sessions and allied services in banking and finance with campuses in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In alignment with the Emiratisation initiative, EIBFS equips UAE nationals via state-of-the-art training facilities and it is interesting to note that the number of women signing up for the programme has been steadily rising.

EIBFS has established global partnerships with prestigious institutes and universities around the world, ensuring the delivery of high-quality programs and courses in banking and finance to the UAE.

Banks have also been pivotal in serving as role models to champion women in business. These opportunities have empowered women to thrive and have positively influenced the work environment for female professionals across institutions, banks, and governmental bodies, all of which have also provided substantial support.

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Government’s Vision to Promote Diversity and Inclusion

The increased involvement of women in the UAE can be attributed to the government's robust support for women's empowerment throughout the region. Through its various initiatives and programs, the government has aimed to diversify the workforce and make it more inclusive. The establishment of the UAE Gender Balance Council is a recent example, aimed at bolstering women's roles in the UAE job market and emphasizing their significance in shaping the nation's future.

 Acknowledging that progressive, sustainable, and thriving communities rely on the advancement of women's talents, the UAE has unilaterally recognised the importance of fostering women's participation in the workforce. This commitment is evident in its 'Vision 2030 economic reform plan', which prioritizes boosting female workforce participation. This focus aligns with the country's economic diversification strategy, which includes investing in women's capabilities through enhanced education and training opportunities, particularly in STEM fields.

Continued efforts needed: Scant female presence in top leadership?

Only 12% of women in the UAE hold senior management positions in the banking sector which is only an indicator of the gnawing gender gap and limited female representation at the top despite high graduation rates and percentage of female employees in the sector.

Islamic finance has been acknowledged for its sustainable model post-financial crisis, contrasting with conventional finance. However, to fully harness this advantage, it must adopt a more inclusive approach to hiring. Meanwhile, women in the UAE must demonstrate resilience to dismantle the barriers obstructing organizational progress so that slowly but steadily more and more of them can smash through the glass ceiling and can attain top positions in the corporate hierarchy.

By: Ipsita Baishya