Nadia Al Faour
DUBAI: Empowerment of women in leadership positions worldwide continues to lag, with too few governments taking steps to encourage female leaders, a senior UAE minister believes.
Ohoud Al-Roumi, the UAE’s government development minister, made the claim during a session titled “Women in Government: Shaping a Better Future for the World” at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Monday.
In her address, Al-Roumi appealed for greater female representation in leadership and for more women to have a central role in discussions on global issues.
“We cannot simply have a conversation about our world without placing women at the center of the conversation,” she said, citing numbers that show women account for only 26.1 percent of parliamentary seats and 22.6 percent of ministerial positions worldwide.
“We need more women in government leadership all over the world. The current pace of progress is simply not enough.”
Al-Roumi said that amplifying the impact of women was essential. She used her own journey from the private sector to government as a lesson in how fears held by women — and also men — can be overcome.
“I enrolled in a program of leadership and was mentored by men and women, which allowed me to blossom into my current position,” she said.
“Support is needed to shape the future and next generation of leaders. Nurture 10 young women, empower them.”
The World Government Summit is taking place at Expo 2020 Dubai, coinciding with the final days of the global event.
Established almost a decade ago, the conference helps to identify opportunities and set the agenda for future governments. It attracts high-level government officials, senior representatives of international organizations, private sector leaders, thinkers, opinion makers, futurists and experts.
Speakers typically discuss the most pressing global challenges, suggesting ways to improve government performance and prepare for, as well as deal with, sudden changes. This year, the summit has created 15 global forums to tackle threats emerging from volatile financial markets and new virtual worlds.
“The launch of these global forums is part of the goal to identify and highlight the most important global trends in vital sectors, and to inform policies, strategies, and plans that advance the preparedness and adaptability of governments for the next stage of development,” said Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Gergawi, UAE minister of Cabinet affairs and chairman of the World Government Summit Foundation.
Among female leaders from around the world attending on Monday was Gordana Comic, minister of human and minority rights in Serbia, who told the “Women in Government” session that the time has come to acknowledge that “women are half of everything.”
She said: “My modern role as a woman should be harmonized and not confronted by the past and traditions. We are educated and we are still educating. We are always told to take care of others; men are taught to enable someone to take care of others. Let’s educate men to take care of others as well: Humans, climate and the world.”
Patricia Francourt, minister of employment and social affairs of the Seychelles, described how she learnt to become resilient living in the UK. “Passion and resilience are traits you want to share, something as women we should do,” she said.
Seeking to share what she had gained from living in the wider world, Francourt said that she had built “cabinets of resources” and launched workshops when she returned to Seychelles.
Workshops targeted women in leadership who felt they needed to go the extra mile.
Francourt, a psychotherapist before entering government, said that she did not separate her knowledge from her experience, noting that good mental health is needed to thrive. She advised women not to give up, even if they are in a minority, and to keep pushing and challenging.
Hessa Buhumaid, UAE minister of community development, said that women have other roles in a community — “a mother, daughter, aunt, you name it” — besides working or being involved in government.
“Women have lots of responsibilities, but their focus on family is very important. It is essential that the roles are balanced better than they have been,” she said.