UNDP Resident Representative, Frode Mauring keynote speech on Gender Balanced Leadership for Innovation and Change

Mar 9, 2017

Dubai (UAE) - UNDP RR speech at the Best Practices Forum.


Frode Mauring, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. to the United Arab Emirates -also covering the states of Oman and Qatar- Speech at the Best Practices Forum “Gender Balanced Leadership for Innovation and Change”

University of Wollongong– Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s forum.  I expect it will result in a valuable exchange of first-hand knowledge and insights on a topic crucial for our time: female workforce engagement as part of thriving, sustainable economies.  As UNDP, we are happy to partner with the Dubai Business Women Council and the University of Wollongong in Dubai to promote such a dialogue.

As you know, International Women’s Day was commemorated globally yesterday by celebrating and reflecting on the progress made on women’s rights. However, each year this occasion is also an opportunity to call for an end to gender inequality.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”, bringing to the spotlight the contributions of women to economies and progress worldwide, and the challenges that are still faced.  

Women account for one half of a country’s potential talent base. Therefore, a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends considerably on whether and how it educates its women, and on the opportunities that they are awarded thereafter. Here in the UAE, its citizens are fortunate to have a constitution guarantees impartiality between men and women as a fundamental right.

The UAE has achieved gender parity in literacy rates as well as in secondary education enrolment. In tertiary education, women enrolment actually surpasses that of men.  This investment and commitment to educational attainment and professional development is exemplary, and the translation of this investment to workforce participation is progressively becoming evident.

The UAE cabinet has eight distinguished women leaders, and the Federal National Council has had a female President, and more recently HE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, the Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations was elected President of the UN Women Executive Board.

With the UAE poised as a regional leader in innovation, it is imperative that we not leave this talent pool untapped, as the country has much to gain from women’s participation, both in business and government.  

As you know the work of all United Nations agencies worldwide now centres on supporting governments in advancing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. One of the targets that governments have committed to achieve by the year 2030 is the “full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value” (SDG 8, target 8.5).

The UAE is ranked 8th globally, out of 144 countries, for equality in wages.  While this is, of course, commendable for the UAE, the pay gap for women in much of the world remains troublesome.  Globally women are earning on average 24 per cent less than men. The World Economic Forum forecasts that at current rates, it will take more than a century to achieve parity on salaries.

Another of the SDG target for 2030 is to “ensure women’s full and effective participation in leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life” (SDG 5, target 5.5). Women are strong, capable leaders and we all have something to learn from their values.

Studies have shown that a rise in female employment could significantly boost growth and per capita income. A PWC study showed huge implications for the global economy if women participate in the labor force at the same rate as men: the GDP of the United Arab Emirates would increase by 12 per cent, of Japan by 9 per cent, of the United States by 5 per cent, of India by 27 per cent, and of Egypt by 34 per cent.

Likewise, there is an enhanced quality impact by more women in the work-force.  A much talked about report published bi-annually by the Credit Suisse Research Institute has reaffirmed its findings throughout the years, showing how companies with more women in decision-making roles outperformed those without.  In other words, a higher percentage of women in top management generates higher return for its shareholders.

In my capacity as the UNDP representative, I wish to reiterate our readiness to work hand in hand with UAE authorities to promote the empowerment of women. Through our global network of talented experts, we can facilitate innovation and knowledge based advancements that can contribute to narrow gender gaps.

Let me express my gratitude once more to our partners in this event: the Dubai Business Women Council and the University of Wollongong in Dubai, both institutions that are committed to contributing to the dialogue and debate surrounding gender issues and women in corporate leadership and entrepreneurial positions in the UAE.

After today’s discussion, as we return to continue with our work in the different sectors we come from, let us keep this in mind:  Gender equality is a human right, and creating truly equal opportunities for women is a large driver of economic growth.  The world cannot afford to miss a large portion of its talent from half its population.

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