While companies have improved since the days of 1950’s office sexism, the situation is still far from perfect in 2018. “Male-dominated industries” still exist, and in nearly every industry, women have fewer leadership roles than men. The UAE ranks 120th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017 – better than any other Middle Eastern country, but a long way from first place.

A Universal Problem

The UAE fared better than its neighbors in the Global Gender Gap Report, however, the MENA (“Middle East and North Africa”) region came in last on the world list. Generally speaking, the report noted that women only take on the majority of leadership roles in three industries – education, healthcare and non-profits. According to the report, this is because women have been working in these particular industries for much longer than others. The report also notes that industries with a majority of women workers pay less than those employing a majority of male workers. A pay gap between men and women’s wages exists almost everywhere – even in the entertainment industry, where celebrities are bringing this issue to the forefront.

Campaigning for Change

Even though it came in 120th on the Global Gender Gap Report’s main list, UAE jumped up to 67th on the report’s list of countries supporting female political empowerment. The main reason for this was the UAE’s focus on addressing gender equality. Last year the government enacted the Gender Balance Guide: Actions for UAE Organizations, with the hope that the UAE will rank in the top 25 by 2021. This program also adheres to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2015, the UAE’s Gender Balance Council was created to reinforce the UAE’s dedication to equality. A National Index will keep track of companies’ compliance using a number of Gender Balance Indicators. The goal is to increase opportunities for women in leadership roles and technical fields. Statistics show that women currently make up 46.6 percent of the UAE’s labor force, ranked second in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The majority of public sector workers are women, at sixty-six percent, and they fill thirty percent of senior roles. Eight women hold seats on the UAE’s Cabinet.

According to the Khaleej Times, companies still need to enforce fair hiring practices, flexible schedules for mothers, and equal pay. While the UAE has taken drastic steps towards workplace equality, true change cannot happen overnight.