The United Arab Emirates’ recent landmark law mandating equal pay for men and women is an important step toward gender equality in the Middle East. But across the region, there is still more work to be done.
Thanks to the commendable efforts of women worldwide, there has been a transformative shift in favour of equality over the past few decades. Women now not only have a say in matters of public interest, but they have evolved into world leaders whose voices truly matter, echoing to the world that change and equality is inevitable.
This global shift toward gender equality has also been felt in the Middle East. The region has experienced unprecedented growth over the past few decades. The rise of a middle class has given women access to good education and health care. Several women have made a name for themselves and taken up leadership roles across the board.
Not only is the need for gender equality socially, culturally, and ethically essential, but it is also economically advantageous. According to a McKinsey report, advancing women equality in the workplace could add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025. The report further states that gender-diverse companies financially outperform others by 15 percent.
But all that glitters is not gold. In some nations where women are educated, this privilege does not translate into good job prospects, let alone mobility.
One of the main challenges concerning women empowerment is tackling the visible impediments to inclusive equality for all women. The more inclusive a society is for women, the better the overall development of any given nation. History has proved this fact time and again, and the UAE is a classic example of how this holds true at the treatment meted out to women.
The UAE has unwaveringly championed the rights of women for decades.
Efforts put in by the country’s leadership toward women empowerment have not only borne fruit, but the world itself is a witness to their achievement in this regard. Women actively participate in all sectors, and the conspicuous contribution of women is thoroughly encouraged, hailed, and applauded. Through education, the UAE has worked hard to nurture and empower young minds to actively participate in the country’s national development programs.
The September 25 decree stipulating equal pay for men and women in the UAE, as decreed by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, epitomizes this progress. As rightly stated by Vice President of the UAE and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid, it is a crucial step in safeguarding gender balance in the UAE. The law not only calls for equal wages to be paid to either gender carrying out the same kind of work, but it also demands more women be employed in the private sector.
The UAE has also implemented these changes effectively. The country has established the UAE Gender Balance Council, a ministry tasked with upholding gender equality and women’s rights. Its efforts have been recognized globally: The United Nations Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index ranked the UAE 1st in the Arab region and 26th globally for gender equality.
Yet across the world, there is still more work to be done.
In the face of new policies that empower women, technological and social shifts, we must invest in a transformative change in favour of equality, so women can play a more significant role in leadership roles and creating solutions for the region.
For sustainable growth, women also need to rise in terms of socio-economic status. Poverty is often directly proportional to low income, and a persistent disparity in the wages of women has far-reaching consequences. Globally, there is an alarming 19 percent disparity between the wages of men and women holding the same educational qualifications and doing the same job for the same hours, according to data from PayScale.
This disparity has historically worsened when crises hit, such as today’s coronavirus pandemic.
As the pandemic ravages the global economy, an estimated 96 million people could fall under the poverty line by 2021, and women who are already underpaid would face the wrath of this prolonged injustice much more consequently as compared to others.
To tackle this issue, several routes are necessary.
All aspects of remuneration of an employee should be taken into consideration when calculating equal pay, including bonuses and overtime as well as shares, not just the basic salary alone. This will help achieve true parity of income.
Making women decision makers at all levels will also help achieve the shift toward equality, while education will encourage the young generation to support equality from an early age. Young women must be allowed to be outspoken and encouraged to speak out. Investing in a future economy by digitizing women’s skills and empowering women with cyber literacy will encourage self-sufficiency, allowing women to climb in society.
In all these cases, reform starts from within – the sooner women-oriented mentoring spaces are recognized, the better. Hand over the baton of power to feminine jurisdiction and rest assured, the world will surely be in safer hands.
Dr. Nairouz Bader is the CEO and founder of Envision Partnership, with over 20 years of business experience. She partnered with the Swiss government as an official OSEC expert on human resources, launched AESC in the Middle East and North Africa, and co-managed IIC Partners business affiliation, among other roles.