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“In the Emirates, women still have too little access to the private sector”

The first woman to have accessed a ministry function in the United Arab Emirates, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi has been an essential figure in the region for twenty years. She talks about the journey left ahead in favor of equality for men and women. Exclusive interview.

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino26 avril 2022

In the United Arab Emirates, women hold up to 60% of government positions. In the private sector, work remains to be done. (Shutterstock)

Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, a trained IT engineer, member of the royal family of Sharjah, niece of Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, is often classified among the most powerful women worldwide*. The first woman to hold a ministry position in the UAE in 2000 for international cooperation, she was then appointed at the ministry of economy and planning, then at the ministry of tolerance until 2017. In parallel to the closing ceremony of the Women’s Pavilion and of the Cartier Women’s Initiative which jointly took place in Dubai, she was one of the prestigious speakers invited at Expo Dubai 2020, on March 8th, international women’s rights day. The opportunity to focus on gender equality in the Middle East and on the improvements that still need to be made.

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During your career, you were able to work at functions in the private sector and within the government. In which sector have women’s rights evolved more significantly?

Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, a computer engineer by training, member of the ruling family of Sharjah, niece of Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasim and the first woman to become a minister (DR)

Gender equality has rapidly evolved in the public sector. In the UAE, there is no specific policy dedicated to women accessing top positions, this has always been very open. Of course, the legal framework surrounding the clear definition of women’s rights was established recently, but in terms of salary equality and accession to leading positions, the government has always been attentive. If you look at entities in each state department, women hold up until 60% of jobs. However, there still is work left to be done in the private sector.

Indeed, only 6% of women hold leading positions in the private sector in Dubai…

I wouldn’t say so. But I do see evolutions, including in high-end functions. But the main reason of this delay is related to the community of expats who work for companies implemented in Dubai. Men are still mainly appointed to these positions. Today, a specific effort must be done to give further space to women in boards, but it is a global issue.

What were your observations when you were at a top position in the private sector? What did you witness in terms of inequality?

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