Driven by the fundamental belief that women and men are equal partners in society, the UAE has been a trailblazer for gender equality and women’s inclusion in the MENA region. As of 2021, the nation was ranked first in MENA and 24th internationally for women’s inclusion, justice and security. Another mark of the UAE’s progress – the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s 2021 WPS Index ranked the UAE highest regionally. Emirati women constitutionally enjoy the same rights as men, including access to education, legal status, claim to titles and more. As the UAE has grown and evolved, Emirati women have made substantial contributions to the country’s progress in STEM, business and government.
Read on to learn more about the achievements of Emirati women.
Leaders in STEM
Emirati women have also contributed to the UAE’s innovations in STEM, with many of these achievements highlighted and further supported by the UAE Embassy’s UAE USA United campaign. From engineering to food and water security, these women have been a driving force behind cutting-edge science and technology. In recent years, Emirati women have also served critical roles in medicine, especially in the wake of COVID-19. For example, Doctor Ayesha Al Memari is the first Emirati woman to specialize in emergency medicine and has used her expertise to support humanitarian relief efforts in Yemen and Ethiopia.
Outer Space Innovations
The UAE space agency and its Hope Mission to Mars have been predominantly led by Emirati women. HE Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, was appointed as chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency in 2020 and led the Hope Mission — of which 80% of the science team was composed of women — to success on Mars. In an article for Time Magazine, she attributed much of the mission’s success to the diversity of the team and acknowledged the importance of including women and people of different backgrounds to create more inclusive environments in STEM professions.
Women in the Workforce
In partnership with UN Women, NAMA Women completed a report that found nearly 78% of leaders of women-owned businesses in the UAE are under 40. Not only is this an accomplishment for Emirati women, but it is also an indication of the drive and potential of the next generation. To further support young entrepreneurs, the UAE has enacted policies to help ensure they have the time and resources to be successful in their ventures.
In the 2020 edition of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen, the UAE had the highest number of women represented, with 23 Emirati women making the list. Furthermore, the World Bank’s 2023 Women, Business and the Law report found that the UAE was also the leading country in the MENA region for providing women with equal opportunities and empowering them through legislation.
Later this year the Emirates Business Women Council will host the World Women Entrepreneurs Summit in the UAE capital. The Summit will focus on “Creating Impactful Business in the Digital Age,” and will welcome a diverse range of perspectives from international women leaders to foster an environment of growth, cooperation and innovation.
Making History in the UAE Government
The UAE has also focused on allowing space for women to participate in government roles. Emirati women are the only women in the MENA region to achieve parity at the parliamentary level. Nine women currently serve in the UAE Cabinet. HE Shamma Al Mazrui, Cabinet Member and Minister of Community Development, was appointed to her minister position when she was 22, becoming the youngest minister in the world. With a priority on including women in government roles, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022 ranked the UAE 30th globally for advancing women’s political empowerment. The 2023 Women in Diplomacy Index also noted that the UAE has seen a 5.5% increase in women in appointments of women ambassadors since 2018.
Additionally, Emirati women hold two-thirds of public sector jobs in the country. With this, the UAE has taken steps to ensure that women are empowered in UAE politics. The UAE’s Gender Balance Council is critical to ensuring the development and implementation of initiatives, legislation and events focused on gender equality and inclusion. This innovative council is an international model for policies and change in achieving gender balance.