Introducing compulsory female quotas in UAE workplaces will not encourage more Emirati women to take up positions in the private sector, the Gulf state's minister of foreign trade said.
Regional governments must work together with the private sector to boost female participation in the workforce and not hire women simply to meet quotas, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi said.
“While quotas are set by law in some countries, I believe this should not be the go-to solution for the UAE and the region in general. As a woman I would prefer to attain my position by real merit rather than always wonder if I was appointed to the board just to hit a quota or through affirmative action,” she said in an interview with market research firm Insight Discovery.
“Collaboration will need to start from the top. If the government shows a genuine concern for empowering women, then the concerned agencies, the private sector and the general public will follow suit,” she added.
Norway became the first country in 2003 to introduce female quotas under a so-called “golden skirt” policy that aims to have 40 percent of directors of listed companies to be women. Iceland followed with a series of targets and quotas in a bid for at least 40 percent of directors to be women by 2013.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron in February said he would not rule out introducing quotas as a way of getting more women into top executive jobs.
Gulf countries continue to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality.
In a global ranking by the World Economic Forum, no Middle East country ranked in the top 100 of the 135 nations covered.
Across the Gulf, the UAE was the highest-ranked country at 103, followed by Kuwait (105), Bahrain (110), Qatar (111), Oman (127) and Saudi Arabia (131).
While incentive schemes could serve to push for women into the workplace, employers could focus on a gender-neutral environment, said Sheikha Lubna.
“Perhaps some incentive schemes can be put in place, but again I would prefer women motivate themselves. The focus should be on creating a fair environment for them in terms of mechanisms such as training and consideration for roles on the corporate board,” she said.
Sheikha Lubna was the first ever female to be appointed as a government minister in the UAE.
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