Why Emirati women are taking notes on the Swedish workplace

Laura Adcock
Laura Adcock

Vision meets Hessa Tahlak of Dubai Women Establishment, who believes that supporting women in the workplace is the key to achieving sustained economic growth both locally and on a global scale

Q. What does Dubai Women Establishment do? 

A. Dubai Women Establishment, lead by Her Highness Shaikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the first government entity in the UAE that supports and focuses on women in the workforce. Our main objective is to increase effective participation of Emirati women in the workforce through different means and tools. We look at international reports and rankings and monitor the UAE rankings and growth, and aim to positively impact Gobal Competitive reports, or the Gender Gap report, for example.

Our main pillars were created after considering the challenges that women generally face at work both locally and internationally, and then designed our strategy accordingly. DWE is involved with research, policy proposals, and activation of women-related regulations in Dubai and the other Emirates, as well as attending networking events and forums, and working on customised development programs, projects and initiatives.

Q. From a global standpoint, why is it important for Dubai to enhance and support the success of women?

A. Success of women is the success of the nation. Today, more than 60 per cent of the Dubai’s government workforce are women; more than 70 per cent of the graduates from local universities are women. If we assure her success and continuous development we can say that we will have a successful, growing society at different levels and in a sustainable way. Women development and effective contribution to the economy is the other half of the total population of UAE nationals, and supporting them and enhancing their contribution will surely affect where the country stands internationally.

Q. What changes have you seen to women’s roles since DWE was founded, and what are your aspirations for the next generation of Emirati women?

A. Since DWE was founded it has become a platform for showcasing the success stories of Emirati women from different sectors, leading to the discovery of many talented and potential leaders. Not only that, we also get exposed to a lot of “super women” who were working and contributing to the growth of the economy while hidden behind the scenes.

One example of DWE’s impact is our work to create six on-site children’s nurseries at various organisations, which has led to a higher level of female retention and lower turnover rate. Another example of our impact is the Women in Board initiative, where we pay special attention to increasing Emirati female representation in boardrooms.

The next generation of Emirati women will have even more opportunities because the government has paid special attention to women in the workforce in recent years, introducing a number of policies and regulations that will enhance their participation and overcome the challenges.

Q. You were recently appointed Chairperson of Women for Sustainable Growth (W4SG), a hub and network for leaders in academia, business and society within the Gulf Region and Scandinavia. How will your new role benefit DWE and Emirati women?

A. My role as the Chair of W4SG was a result of my passion for implementing what we preach here in DWE; building bridges, sustainable leadership for women, international representation of Emirati women and women in boards. The appointment of a young Emirati female like me to chair such a diverse board is an indication that our government has prepared us through knowledge and exposure to deal with international counterparts.

We get exposed to a lot of “super women” who were working and contributing to the growth of the economy while hidden behind the scenes

Hessa Tahlak , ‎Director of Development and Research at Dubai Women's Establishment

In terms of DWE, we have been working with Sweden on different co-projects for the past three years, and having me as a representative in a Sweden-based organisation is an opportunity to make these relations even more structured and effective.

Q. Following last month’s W4SG summit, what can be learnt from Sweden?

A. Sweden has always been one of the highest-ranking countries in Gender Gap and Competitive reports, while Scandinavia in general is one of the best regions for women empowerment and policies. Emirati females who participated in the summit were able to take a lot from the networking opportunities and the exchange of expertise and success stories during the summit, paving the way for future collaborations between both regions in different areas.

Q. What’s next on the DWE agenda? 

A. There will be a strong focus on women’s growth and competitiveness as we are launching a couple of programs to enhance and measure the representation of women in UAE organisations and boards, in both the public and private sectors.

Our major event, the Arab Women Leadership Forum, will be taking place in November 2014, which is hosted under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. This two-day forum will focus on competitiveness and how women can contribute to the rankings and growth of countries. There will be international, regional and local speakers showcasing different elements and pillars and benchmarks related to competitiveness in addition to policies and success stories of organisations and regulations from different parts of the world. We are truly looking forward to it.