Equal pay: The next step in a history of empowerment
As the global conversation surrounding gender diversity and inclusion continues to pick up momentum, the GCC is undoubtedly making waves through its recent initiatives. Saudi Arabia is an excellent example of this. Considering its transformation, including the Kingdom's first movie screening in over 30 years, there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia's recent government initiatives have broken down gender barriers as well. With increasing support of women in the workplace, including their right to drive and to join the military, female empowerment is at an all-time high and its power is being felt across the GCC.
Saudi Arabia shares this growing focus on gender equality with the UAE. There have been several recent government initiatives which illustrate an increased commitment to women empowerment in a country that has long supported women. The UAE's recent endorsement of a bill for the first legislation ensuring equal pay, a momentous decision, is yet another example of how the UAE leadership is taking steps to support women in achieving their goals.
In fact, the UAE government historically introduced many other initiatives which encouraged women's participation in the employment market and guaranteed them the opportunities to pursue their dream careers. For instance, women can be employed in the UAE with no restrictions on the types of roles or jobs. This is aligned with statements from the very establishment of the Federation of the UAE Constitution, the UAE's founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
"Women have the right to work everywhere," he stated.
Today, this statement can be observed in many ways; female and male employees go through the same processes to obtain sponsorship with their employers. Furthermore, the authorities have increased flexibility for female employees: for those wanting to remain under their spouse or guardian's sponsorship, they may work full or part-time just by obtaining a separate labour card. This option is not available to their male counterparts.
This opened the door for many women who had not previously been working but now wished to pursue their dream career, without having to worry about the implications for their sponsorship status. Additionally, there are no restrictions on the fields they can join so that women can bring their skills to a wide variety of roles - from financial advisory to nuclear energy industries and everything in between; UAE-based women are leading the way.
As such, UAE women have the right to equal benefits extending beyond salaries to include health insurance, annual leave, end of services, etc., since Federal Law No. 8 of the year 1980, Article 32 explains that women must be paid an equal wage for equal work. This is yet another example of how recent initiatives are based on a foundation of women empowerment.
It is heart-warming to see that the UAE, as well as other GCC countries, are continuing to drive the conversation surrounding gender equality through supporting women in achieving their goals. This was further illustrated by the legislation for equal pay and is also rooted in the acknowledgement of the effort of UAE women, who build upon a rich legacy to carry out the UAE's vision for future excellence.
The writer is senior manager for Mena region at Fragomen Worldwide. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.