The UAE manufacturing industry's heavyweights are joining forces to find ways to increase the participation of women in the workplace within the traditionally male-dominated sector.
Under the new "Challenger Programme", Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) has brought together Adnoc, Ducab, Emirates Steel Arkan, Siemens, Strata Manufacturing, Taqa and TechnipFMC to promote gender diversity across the industrial sector.
The programme, which was revealed on Thursday at the Inclusion Summit in Abu Dhabi, is in partnership with social enterprise Aurora50 and under the patronage of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
"Gender balance is not just a moral obligation, but a smart business choice," Abdullah Al Nuaimi, assistant undersecretary at the ministry, said as programme was launched at the summit.
"Today we stand on the brink of a new era where gender balance will be the norm, not the exception."
Mr Al Nuaimi urged others to join the Challenger Programme and become "a catalyst of change and to work together towards a future where gender balance is woven into the very fabric of our corporate culture".
"Let us embrace the challenge with the knowledge and determination that together we will build a legacy of equality, prosperity and unity."
The goal of the Challenger Programme is to bring industrial companies together to make quicker progress on gender balance issues.
Company representatives will form a steering committee to share best practices, find solutions to challenges facing their industry and press for higher participation of women in the sector.
Yaser Almazrouei, executive director at Adnoc Group, outlined the progress the UAE has already made in improving gender equality in the sector since he started as an engineer 30 years ago, when "there was not a single female on-site."
"Fast-forward to 2023, Adnoc currently has 900 females leading critical projects and operations on many of our onshore and offshore sites," he said.
"This growth is not just to meet KPIs but reflects the rich talent pool we have."
There has been a "significant increase" in the number of women applying for jobs at Adnoc and other companies in the industry, he said.
"We at Adnoc provide equal opportunity for growth to all our employees and competency assessments show positive results for the majority of females, hence the increase in women in leadership currently stands at 20 per cent," he said.
Mr Almazrouei said workplace inclusion was "more than just an action. It's a mindset. We must all be willing to contribute to a culture that prioritises inclusion. It is the mindset, the determination and the talent that will ensure sustainability," he said.
"This value has so far enabled us to transform from a traditional oil and gas company to a global, progressive energy company."
Adnoc aims to promote skilled women to leadership positions and has set a goal to double the number of women who occupy technical positions, Suhaila AlMazrouei, vice president at Adnoc Offshore, said in a panel discussion at the summit.
"We need access to the talent pool, the best brains, the best ideas, the highly-skilled people for us to overcome – and find solutions – for future challenges," she said.
EGA, the UAE’s largest industrial company outside the oil and gas sector, has also set its own gender equality targets.
It seeks to raise the number of women in supervisory roles to 25 per cent by 2025, up from 20 per cent currently, said Iman al Qasim, executive vice president at EGA.