Rethinking Women Leadership Development Programs in the UAE
March 20, 2012

The Gender and Public Policy Program team along with Harvard Professor Dr. Hannah Riley Bowles organized a roundtable discussion entitled “Rethinking Women Leadership Development Programs in the UAE”.

Gender Program Organizes a Women and Leadership Roundtable “Rethinking Women Leadership Development Programs in the UAE” March 20

At the core of the UAE government’s strategy throughout the past decade has been the support and empowerment of women, and the recognition that they are crucial players in the nation building process. Women are outnumbering men in higher education and are encouraged more than ever to enter the workforce, in private corporations, as entrepreneurs and as government employees. Through both private and public sector initiatives, women are given increased opportunities to move up the ranks and take on leadership roles.

The growing focus on development initiatives to empower women in the country has been met with a plethora of women leadership programs of various types and scales: national leadership development programs, sponsored and led by the government; programs incorporated within university curricula; programs within private sector companies or nongovernmental organizations as well as for profit consultancies and commercial centers offering customized and tailored women leadership training.

Notably, the UAE has made progress in reshaping the status of women in the country. Today, more women are entering the workforce; there is a larger representation of women in the federal government; women entrepreneurs are running over 30 percent of small and medium businesses in the country and an increased number are taking on senior political positions as ambassadors, ministers and members of the federal national council. It is arguable however, that more remains to be achieved.

With this success under the belt of the UAE, the questions remain: What more can be done to continue improving and building on these achievements so far made? With all the rapid changes unfolding in the world and in the region, and with increased financial constraints within all sectors, how can we better design women leadership development programs? What can be learned from recent experiments and what ways can they be improved in the future? What challenges have leadership development programs faced and how can these challenges be overcome?

The Gender and Public Policy Program team along with Harvard Professor Dr. Hannah Riley Bowles organized a roundtable discussion entitled “Rethinking Women Leadership Development Programs in the UAE” to address some of these very questions.The event brought together a highly select group of senior level managers, program directors and academics with diverse backgrounds from the private and public sectors as well as academic institutions who have been involved in developing and running women leadership development programs. All participants were given a chance to give a brief presentation about their program, reflect on their experiences, and share their views on challenges and opportunities going forward. The goal of the roundtable is to present key recommendations to policy makers in the UAE about how to improve and strengthen women’s leadership development programs. The discussion was led by Dr. Hannah Riley Bowles and Dr. May Al Dabbagh and moderated by Ghalia Gargani.

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