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Panel discussion in honour of International Women’s Day calls for action to accelerate gender parity

Tuesday, 8 March, 2016

The Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), the official representative organization for business women, both professionals and entrepreneurs, in the Emirate of Dubai, today hosted, in partnership with the University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD), the Pledge for Parity 2016 Forum. The panel discussion event, in line with the theme for International Women’s Day 2016, brought together celebrated women in business to discuss solutions on how men and women can work together to create equal opportunities at multiple levels of organisations’ hierarchies.

“One of our current objectives is to encourage men and women in the UAE to discuss and explore the factors associated with females attaining, and succeeding in leadership positions across all sectors and industries within the UAE,” said HE Dr. Raja Easa Saleh Al Gurg, President of DBWC. “Through our ongoing research collaboration with UOWD, we aim to make a contribution to the dialogue and debates surrounding gender issues and women in leadership positions within the UAE.”

The panel discussion, which was moderated by Dr Payyazhi Jayashree, Associate Dean (Education) – Faculty of Business at UOWD and Principal Investigator of the UOWD/DBWC Women and Leadership Research, was structured with a team of influential business women in the UAE including Her Excellency Dr. Raja Al Gurg, Ismahane Eloufi, Director General, ICBA, Rita Al Semaani Jansen, Partner, Ince & Co Middle East LLP, Therese Schultz Sevaldsen, Head of HR MET, Philips Middle East & Turkey, Minelle Gholami, People Director, Emrill Services and Dr. Sami Kamel, General Manager for Regional Strategic Marketing Organization for GE Power.

The main objective of the panel discussion was to examine how men and women can work together to create equal opportunities for women at multiple levels of the organisational hierarchy and to address issues such as the leaking pipeline and the glass-ceiling. ‘We expect and hope that the discussions will generate ideas that would have the potential to contribute to public policy initiatives surrounding gender issues within the UAE,” added Al Gurg.

According to the International Women’s Day website, women worldwide continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and political achievement. However, progress towards gender parity has slowed in many places. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133.

“Gender equality is a must to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals," said Ismahane Elouafi. “Women are very strong and resilient. The only road-block in their great awakening is the Policy and Social environment. Women require an inducive environment to thrive and show their real potential."

The forum was part of an ongoing research collaboration between UOWD and DBWC, supported with grant funding from the National Research Foundation – Industry Research Collaboration Award. Dr Payyazhi Jayashree stated that “Achieving gender parity at the workplace is as much about challenging restrictive assumptions as it is about creating enabling organisational cultures. This collaborative research (and panels such as these) are focused on providing insights on leadership development while identifying specific measures that we can take at structural, policy and institutional level, to attract and retain talent and to create the pipeline for women to occupy senior leadership positions through consciously building more inclusive and sustainable work cultures”

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity, with the 2016 theme titled ‘Pledge for Parity.’