Sheikh Zayed’s great-granddaughter launches initiative to promote female executives in UAE

Sheikha Shamma wants to increase number of women leaders on boards of UAE companies

Sheikha Shamma speaking to delegates at the One Young World Summit in London last week. Courtesy of Sheikha Shamma
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Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa is working on an initiative to promote gender equality in the workplace, looking to have 20 women on 20 executive boards on UAE companies by 2020.

The great-granddaughter of the UAE's Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, and columnist for The National is working on the project with non-profit iniative MorEquity, which aims to complement and accelerate the work of the UAE's Gender Balance Council.

“As the founder of the initiative, I recognise the value that women bring to the workplace but also the unique challenges they face because of their gender," Sheikha Shamma said.

"For organisations not to make the most of these valuable contributors to the economy seems very strange to me.”

She said she was inspired by the words of her great-grandfather, who once said: “Nothing makes me happier than to see women assume their rightful role in society and fulfil their potential."

The initiative began as the Women’s Equality and Empowerment Board, a networking and knowledge-sharing platform.

“Our aim is for ambitious women to have greater equality," Sheikha Shamma said.

"The UN Sustainable Development Goals point to the importance of empowering women and I see it as a prerequisite to us achieving all 17 goals.

"This year we are launching the 20 for 2020 initiative where we aim to increase female participation on UAE boards and to create an environment that allows them to succeed.

“I hope to see a future that is gender-balanced and where initiatives like my own will no longer be necessary, simply because it will be the norm."

Sheikha Shamma and the UAE Health Ministry are also working on an initiative to bring education to children in Emirati hospitals, initially those who are on dialysis machines, by the end of the year.

She is also passionate about sustainability, regularly working with NGOs and entrepreneurs on projects that promote it, and she gave a talk to aspiring young leaders at the One Young World Summit on Friday about climate change.

“People need to be more aware of their consumption patterns because ultimately if people are buying products that are not sustainable, corporations are going to continue producing those products," Sheikha Shamma said.

"So it's by collectively having that awareness and choosing to go for options that are more sustainable.”

“Companies have done a great job at pledging to be more environmentally-friendly and changing their products to become more sustainable.

"They recognise that is what people want, especially young people, and if they do not adopt change they then run the risk of jeopardising the profitability and longevity of their business, or regulation will come in and they will lose their licences to operate."