Are women stepping up their game in finance in UAE?

In the UAE banking sector today, women make up 70% of nationals employed – one of the highest rates of working Emirati women compared to other sectors. What remains is the challenge for women to climb up the echelons of an organisation as most are still below the board level.

In the UAE, women constitutes more than half the population and with a shortage of talent in the job market, businesses are embracing efforts to close in on its gender gap. This is in line with an increasing number of women in the region who are also slowly stepping up in their working environment.

Below are a few factors that have catalysed an empowerment amongst women today.


Growing aspirations of UAE women

Despite a multitude of challenges, including the long-standing cultural pressure on women to stay at home, more of them are now speaking up.

The executive vice president and group general counsel at Emirates NBD says she has always been “gender blind” in her work, reported by The National. As a female leader of the business, she was invited to share her experience and expertise at the Dubai Business Women’s Council panel talk on why gender balance and diversity make good business sense.

Another positive sign that encourages future generations of women in the region to step up in the pursue of their careers – the UAE currently possess the largest number of STEM business women in the region where entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly popular.


More opportunities for women in finance: Training and Flexibility

The Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) was launched to offer world class education programmes, training sessions and allied services in the area of banking and finance. The campuses are strategically located in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Committed to the Emiratisation initiative, EIBFS supports UAE nationals by providing top-notch training facilities and encouraging career growth in sector. Over the years, the number of women who have enrolled in the programme have been rising.

EIBFS has been globally integrated with various leading institutes and universities of the world to bring and offer the best programmes and courses within banking and finance to the UAE.

Banks have also played a crucial role in setting themselves as role models to support women in the business. Promoting the advancement of women at Barclays Dubai, Mr Mortimer says support networks have been established to build great inclusivity for women in the company. “We have a mums’ network and a carers network, which bring together individuals to share the challenges they’re facing,” he says. “We’ve also tried to enforce flexible working, which is increasingly enabled by technology.”

These opportunities have enabled women to grow and have improved the environment for working women across institutions, banks and the government who have also been pumping in due support.


New visions by government to promote diversity

The success of women can be partly attributed to the UAE government's strong support for women empowerment across the region. The government has launched various initiatives and programmes to diversify the workforce. The recent constitution of the UAE Gender Balance Council is designed to enhance the role of women within the UAE job market and have affirmed their importance in building the nation's future.

The UAE have unilaterally acknowledged the fact that a progressive, sustainable and healthy living environment simply cannot be achieved without the advancement of women’s talents and its ‘Vision 2030 economic reform plan’ commits to boost female participation in the workforce. This focus is also part of its ‘economic diversification strategy’, which involves investing in women’s capabilities by providing enhanced education and training opportunities, particularly in STEM disciplines.


Further improvements to be made: Female representation dismal at the top?

Female leadership within the banking and financial services sector remains dismal in comparison to high graduation rates and percentage of female employees in the sector. Currently, there is only a mere 12% of women in the UAE who hold senior management roles in banking.

In a post-financial crisis world, Islamic finance has been recognised to have a more sustainable model than its conventional counterparts. But it needs to seize this competitive edge by adopting a more diverse approach to hiring.

Perseverance is also required for women in the UAE to break the glass ceilings that cage organisations from instituting positive change.

If you’d like to find out more about the talent market within the banking and financial space, especially the diversity of organisations, please feel free to reach out to me via Linkedin, or visit our website at for more industry-related information.

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