Gender equality is an important aspect that serves as an integral driver for economic growth and development. Gender equality is a moral imperative that provides men and women with equal rights in social, political, and cultural dimensions. Although some countries have made significant steps to close the gender gap, many women from diverse parts of the world are still facing daunting challenges brought about by gender inequality. The old narrative of women solely serving as housewives and mothers still applies to different societies in the world. Amid the advancement and tremendous developments in today’s digital era, many women are still prohibited from pursuing certain professions whilst others continue to earn less than the men in spite of serving in similar job positions. However, UAE has made remarkable steps to ensure that both men and women receive equal rights
Gender inequality is a serious problem that impeded UAE from attaining its full economic potential during the ancient era. Even though the UAE government has gone a milestone to ensure that girls get to enjoy their right to education, some of the religious, cultural, and social factors interfered with government’s effort of promoting gender equality. UAE has made tremendous resolutions in a bid to reduce the gender disparities in schools, workplaces, and in the political arena. This has helped the nation to thrive economically as both men and women contribute to building the economy.
Emirati Women’s Role during the Pre-Oil Era
Since time immemorial, girls residing in UAE were trained to play the primary role of being wives and mothers. The girls had to live in a society where boys enjoyed so many rights that would later see them sprout and succeed in an array of professional careers. The men served different roles in the social, career, and political arenas. Men were thereby viewed as the primary providers for the family whereas the women played an integral role in taking care of the entire family (Bristol-Rhys 2). Different roles were thereby split along gender lines with women dictated to only perform limited roles whereas their male counterparts were allowed to perform a plethora of roles.
The Islamic and cultural norms were known to play a crucial role in relegating Emirati women to a subordinate status (Kelly and Julia 33). Even though women practically performed all house duties, they had no voice of opinion at home. Thus, the husband was given the power over the wife’s right to pursue education and a career. Most women who seemed to defy the orders set by their husbands faced abuse and gender violence from their husbands (Baker and Alexander 320). In addition, the society inflicted fear on the women thereby discouraging them not to pursue their career. It is for this reason that most Emirati women failed to have the drive to pursue entrepreneurship and other leadership roles. UAE’s society stereotypic mindset on women contributed immensely to the continuous regression of the nation’s economy during the traditional age. Times have, however, changed as more women are today involved in politics, governance, and business. There are more girls than boys who are today getting higher degrees and pursuing their professional careers (Baker and Alexander 324).
Education and Employment in UAE
Education is regarded as the cornerstone of any successful society. Gender discrimination was one of the formidable challenges faced by the UAE government during the pre-oil era. To reduce the effects of gender inequality, UAE’s government made several resolutions. The year 1971 marked the hallmark of change as UAE’s government enacted a new law that allowed girls to attend school. Both girls and boys became entitled to free education at all schooling levels (Daleure 12). Concurrently, such steps have helped the nation to eliminate gender disparities in primary, secondary, and tertiary education that had been popularly dominated by the male child. During this period, more girls enrolled in school to gain the education that they were once restricted to. Through the government’s initiative, approximately 32,800 Emirati women joined different public schools in 1971 (Hausmann et al. 38). In comparison to other developed Arab nations, the formalization of education by the UAE federal government has resulted to a steady increase in the number of female students (Kelly and Julia 15). Unlike other Arab coutries such as Saudi Arabia, women in Emirati are today more informed and learned to perform an array of tasks that help in building the economy.
The modernized era recorded a dramatic increase in the number of girl’s school with a simultaneous increase in the number of female teachers. Thus, an increase in the number of students created job opportunities for teachers and many other school personnel. In essence, the government’s effort to promote girls’ education has indirectly increased the rate of employment thereby reducing poverty levels in UAE. Additionally, adult centers for education were developed to provide education to most Emirati women who had failed to attend school due to marriage and childbirth (Baker and Alexander 322). In fact, the number of total female graduates has increased a hundredfold with approximately 46% of UAE women graduating from foreign institutions after advancing their studies (Kelly & Julia 31). Consequentially, the literacy level in UAE continues to improve as more girls are being enrolled in schools.
The country also recorded an alarming increase in the number of female population within the workforce. Moreover, the society still dictated specific careers that they regarded as being well-suited for the women. Thus, most erudite women were restrained from taking ‘male professions’ such as; engineering, doctor, architecture, entrepreneurship, and construction (Kelly and Julia 29).However, the government supported women to pursue a career of their choice through the following constitutional law. Article 34 of the UAE constitution states the following, “Every citizen shall be free to choose his occupation, trade, or profession within the limits of law.” This law gave women a chance to contribute to the development of the economy by joining their most preferred areas of work. Concurrently, the UAE’s economy increased immensely from 9.6 in the year 1986 to 33.4 percent in 2007 (Deleure 55). The economy continues to improve as the number of women in the workforce has increased significantly in the engineering, law, technology, business, oil industry, and government sectors (Bristol-Rhys 69). According to the demographic statistics carried out in the recent years, approximately 40% of the women work in the public sector, 18% in private organizations, 29% taking different positions in non-governmental organizations whereas 7.6% are entrepreneurs (Hausmann et al. 53).There are also more women taking leadership positions in many existing organizations in UAE. More women than men are today serving as entrepreneurs and businesswomen in UAE and international regions. Unlike other nations where men are selected for higher job positions, today, more UAE women are being selected to work as directors and managers in many organizations. For instance, some of the NGOs and governmental institutions are headed by erudite women. UAE has also reported the appointment of female judges and a female pilot working at the UAE’s Civil Aviation Authority (Daleure 42). Because of the aspect of equal job opportunities UAE, there are more women heading UAE cabinet posts while others have been appointed as ambassadors. The first UAE female ambassadors were appointed to Sweden and Spain (Baker and Alexander 328). This clearly indicates how women can take different vital roles in strengthening the economy, provided they are given equal rights as the men.
Comparison between UAE and America
The United States of America is a superpower country that is renowned for its great economic stability and good living standards. The U.S. is known for embracing diversity in different aspects such as; culture, religion, and political view. In the United States, every person is considered equal to the other in spite of racial or even cultural differences (Baker and Alexander 329). However, there still exist some clear forms of gender discrimination in US. The American women are still underrepresented in political, technology and the business sector. However, there are more American women in education, healthcare, and public sectors. In comparison to America, there are more women in leadership, political, engineering, and technology sectors. This shows how UAE thrives in reducing gender gap by encouraging women to venture into career professions of their own choice. Today, women in UAE are enjoying the same rights and opportunities as the men. Unlike America which is still tackling with the problem of discriminative pay based on gender, UAE provides equal job pay to both females and males holding the same job position. It is for this profound reason that more UAE women are advancing in their education, taking challenging and high job positions, and vying for political leadership posts in UAE. On the other hand, the American women are still battling with gender discrimination that they face with regards to careers, unequal salary pay among many other problems. The general economy of the UAE is postulated to increase drastically as both men and women are encouraged to actively involve themselves in business, education, technology, political, and social sectors. This will help the country to further improve its living standards whilst solving the issue of poverty in UAE.
Baker, David, and Alexander W. Wiseman.Gender, Equality, and Education from International and Comparative Perspectives. Bingley, UK: Emerald/JAI, 2009.
Kelly, Sanja, and Julia Breslin.Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance. New York: Freedom House, 2010.
Daleure, Georgia. Emiratization in the Uae Labor Market: Opportunities and Challenges. , 2016.
Hausmann, Ricardo, Laura D. A. Tyson, and Saadia Zahid.The Global Gender Gap Report 2009. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum, 2009.
Bristol-Rhys, Jane. Emirati Women: Generations of Change. London: Hurst and Company, 2010.