Earlier this month we celebrated the UAE's 46th National Day. There is so much that we can be proud of as a country. As chief human resource officer of one of the UAE's banks, I am particularly proud of the role played by our nation's leaders in nurturing and supporting such a hardworking and talented Emirati workforce.
They have always recognised that young people are our future. They have the potential to be global citizens who help companies to shape societies and economies by bringing fresh and compassionate points of view, ideas, vigour and passion to the table.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has prioritised building a knowledge-based economy by empowering the national workforce. In 2014, he launched a seven-year nationalisation plan as part of the UAE Vision 2021, which aims to develop the skills of Emiratis and fill senior-level positions with local talent. This is being done through a points system that ranks and rewards performance across key areas, including employing women, supporting education and training, and encouraging flexible working conditions.
This sends a strong message to all industries that it is not enough to just "tick the box" when it comes to Emiratisation. Organisations need to create a culture of growth for Emiratis by taking a long-term view and building integrated and holistic Emiratisation programmes.
Yet Emiratis continue to be under-represented in the private sector. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation found that 38 per cent of Emirati jobseekers felt private sector salaries weren't competitive enough and that 33 per cent refused a position due to geographical location.
To fix this, the private sector needs to ensure that nationals can gain access to entry-level positions and access the tools needed to build their capabilities, so that they can move on to positions with greater leadership and responsibility. Companies must invest in human capital through supportive infrastructure, personal mentoring, and the development of succession plans for national talent. And they must partner with the public sector and educational institutions so that market needs, industry trends and curriculum can interlink.
My sector, banking, remains an attractive career path for Emiratis, who find it stable, attractive and flexible. Since December last year, the broader financial services sector achieved Emiratisation levels of 20 to 45 per cent. I am proud to say that Commercial Bank International achieved 330 Emiratisation points in September 2017, exceeding the Central Bank target of 208 points by December 2017.
Helping a UAE bank to achieve this has been one of my biggest career achievements to date.
I have the Mother of the Nation, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, to thank for much of my career success. She has been my main role model and a true source of inspiration to me throughout my working life, as she has been for so many other Emirati women.
By positioning the female agenda firmly at the centre of government prioritisation, she has set the foundation for women's empowerment in the UAE and inspired thousands of other women to each play a role in this progress.
The UAE now sets an example for many countries in the Middle East and across the rest of the world. In 2012, we became the first country in the Arab region and the second country in the world to introduce a mandatory female presence in the boardroom. In February 2015, the UAE formed a Gender Balance Council to oversee government efforts to ensure gender balance and one year later, eight new federal ministerial appointments were announced, five of which were Emirati women.
To continue this powerful momentum in both the public and private sector, we need to prepare women for leadership positions by creating opportunities and developing skills through training and mentorship.
Understanding my professional potential was one of my biggest barriers early on in my career, as I did not have the confidence to take a seat at the table and make my goals known. My mentor at the time motivated me to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I quickly realised that I was limiting my possibilities before. Through self-assessment and feedback from others, I continued to make my career objectives known, and was able to overcome my barriers.
My advice to young Emiratis, male or female, looking to enter the private sector, is to surround yourself with brilliant leaders and learn from their examples. Ensure that you have a formal or informal mentor or coach; their network, advice and resources will be invaluable to your growth early in your career. And say yes to as many things you can. This is the only way to expand your horizon and deepen your business knowledge.
Hessa Al Ghurair is chief human resources officer of CBI