UAE women’s participation in workforce, economy on the rise

Women’s contribution to the work force and to the Emirati economy is slowly but surely rising in the UAE.

Emirati women are increasingly choosing to enter the workforce to experience independence, to financially contribute to their family and economy, and to afford the luxuries associated with modern standards of living.

Approximately half of all Emirati female university students expect to be working five years after graduation.

The number of women joining the work force is evidence enough of this change coming over the already vibrant UAE workforce.  In 2006, less than 20% of Emirati women were part of the national labor force. The number is expected to triple by the 2020 with ongoing efforts like The Arab Women in Leadership Summit and initiatives by its partners The Dubai SME and The Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC).

During the years 1990 to 2004 the number of female university students has grown to double that of male students. Upon completion of high school, 95% of Emirati women continue on to higher education and comprise 75% of the student population at the Al Ain national university. Women comprise 70% of college graduates in the UAE. According to Dubai Women’s College, 50-60% of its 2,300 students proceed to seek employment upon graduation.

This growth though also brings forth a stark gap between the number of females students employed and the number of female employees and entrepreneurs joining the UAE work force every year. The ratio of the number of educated women and those joining the work force each year, though low, is nevertheless rising. Within the business sector, the UAE possess the largest number of businesswomen in the region where entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly popular. At the nine-year-old Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, women constitute 43% of its investors while the city’s Businesswomen’s association boasts 14,000 members.

The rise of female entrepreneurship is also partly responsible for consistent narrowing of this gap. Female entrepreneurs in the region have realized and recognized the opportunities the highly diversifying Emirati economy presents them with and have started exploiting these opportunities.

Ambareen Musa, the Founder and CEO of who also happens to be one of the Speakers at The 3rd Arab Women in Leadership & Business Summit, alludes her entrepreneurial bend of mind to her parents and the support they have shown. On choosing Entrepreneurship over Employment Ambareen says, “I come from a family of entrepreneurs for generation and grew up seeing my dad build three businesses.

My summers were spent with him helping him with the accounts all the way to Business Development.  I have a passion for creating something out  of nothing and that is where I get my energy from – seeing an idea turn into reality.”

Though the Emirati women have had the will to start a business of their own or join an already vibrant work force, the procedure of setting up a business still leaves a lot to be done. Government efforts through the DubaiSME and The Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), not only help provide the right know how for budding young entrepreneurs but also provide regular assistance through mentorship programs and workshops to provide right direction to these efforts.

The DBWC’s RoYa program along with the other initiatives undertaken by the Dubai SME include the launch of Dubai Ventures Network, and State of SME Equity Investment’ report to raise awareness on the importance of equity investment in SMEs including those driven from the front by women.

“Dubai SME has not only launched varied initiatives for SME development but also exclusive programs for the professional development of women. It is due to these initiatives and the encouragement of leadership in Dubai and the UAE that a more modern entrepreneurial spirit is seen developing among the younger, well-educated women professionals. Dubai SME also collaborates with global organizations to provide Emirati women professionals with a wider scope for growth,” remarked Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME.

Harshad Katikar, Vice President at MICE Quotient, the organizer for The Arab Women in Business and Leadership Summit opines, “Within the public sector, governmental employment for Emirati women has increased from 11.6% in 1995, 22% in 2005 and 66% as of June 2007.  In September 2008, Dr. Hissa Al Otaiba and Sheikha Najla Al Qasimi became the UAE’s first female ambassadors, serving Spain and Sweden respectively. Through these examples the UAE is exemplifying the participation of women in the work force and the economy.”

Through efforts like The Arab Women in Leadership and Business Summit which is its third year The entities like the DubaiSME and the DBWC continue to uphold their commitment to women’s development and empowerment in the UAE.

The Summit, which falls well within the purview of the Dubai SME 2021 Strategic Plan, has seen 400 attendees from more than 20 countries with 60 senior speakers and over 80 media partners, over the past two years. The previous editions were organized with support from DubaiSME and The Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), and The Kuwait Chamber of Commerce, as official partners.  The 2016 edition of the Summit is also supported by as a Strategic Career Partner.