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Khalid Al Ameri: What Emirati men can learn from Emirati women
August 28, 2016
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“Beware men lest women deprive you of leadership positions.”
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai

I often wonder what gives Emirati women the drive and work ethic to go above and beyond in order to achieve the things they want in life. From the outside looking in, academically, professionally, and personally Emirati women seem to have a strong focus on the things they want relative to their male counterparts, and are taking every opportunity to make it possible.
From my personal observation and engagement through companies and universities I boil it down to one thing: “hunger”. What I’ve learned in life is that when the odds are against you, you work harder, and when you get an opportunity to change your life for the better you take full advantage of it. My father was proof of that, he lived a very humble life and ever since he got an opportunity from ADNOC to continue his higher education abroad he has never looked back. He has felt what it is like to have very little and knows that he doesn’t want that for himself, his family, or his community.
Historically opportunities for women in the UAE were limited to their homes, education wasn’t readily available or seen as culturally unnecessary, and employment may have seemed like a distant hope for many women wishing to embark on careers of their own. From those lack of opportunities grew a hunger to achieve and prove how far they can go, and when leaders like Sheikh Zayed gave them that opportunity, Emirati women took it and have never looked back. Today women outnumber men in higher education, 70% of all the students, and government sector employment where they hold 66% of roles (and 30% of decision making positions) according to Dr Shamsa Al Saleh, CEO of Dubai Women Establishment.

It’s incredible how things can change in a generation with the right leadership and resources. In the UAE the involvement of women in all aspects of national development has been a priority of leaders, and as the saying goes the proof is in the pudding. As of 2015 women’s literacy rate in the UAE stands at 95.8% according to UNESCO, higher than men at 93.1%. Furthermore according to data from The World Bank’s International Labour Organisation as of 2014 women in the UAE make up 46% of the workforce up from 25% in 1990.
As the UAE continues to shift to a more meritocratic society, for Emirati women that is simply business as usual. Depending purely on their skills and qualifications is nothing new, they know that the future is not going to depend on their nationality, lineage, or associations (yes I mean ‘Wasta’), but simply how well trained they are to take on increasing responsibilities and how well prepared they are to take on a future where socio-economic trends continue to shift and find their balance.
The one common argument I have heard from many an HR Manager or “Consultant" is that Emiratis aren’t driven, they don’t need to work, they have everything they need. Even if that is true to some extent thanks to our leadership as Emiratis do have access to ample education and employment opportunities along with social benefits, so the drive to go above and beyond maybe somewhat limited. Hence I often wonder how do we create somewhat of a “synthetic” hunger amongst our youth to want to accomplish more in a world where accomplishing just enough is acceptable. My first response is to study our women, to observe what they have accomplished with a few simple resources, to analyse their desire to continuously develop themselves, and to share those conclusions with their male counterparts, maybe that will teach them the one thing that Emirati women have had all along, a hunger to win.

The author is a columnist on education and youth development.

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