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Global employment briefing: United Arab Emirates, January 2013

  • UAE
  • Employment law - HR E-Brief


Compulsory female appointments to UAE company boards


Last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, made an historic announcement affecting all women in the UAE.


Following a ruling by the UAE cabinet, it will become compulsory for corporations and government agencies to have female representation on every board of directors.  The Vice President made the announcement using his Twitter account and said: “women have proved themselves in many workplaces and today we want them to have a strong presence in decision making positions in our institutions”.


In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, women only hold 5% of board positions in all listed companies, so this far-reaching decision seeks to redress the balance by having each gender represented more evenly at a top level in the UAE. Very few other nations have implemented a similar gender equality initiative and the news has surprised the UAE business community. It is unknown how the decision is going to be implemented in practice or the time scale for implementation, however, it has long been recognised that women should be properly represented in the UAE decision making process (reflecting their rights to education and equal pay). 


As well as this new ruling, there are also calls from the Arabian Business Women’s Forum for GCC governments to consider implementing some form of quota system to increase the participation of women in the workplace. At present, women in the GCC comprise around 18% of the workforce, compared to around 55% in Europe. It has been reported that to legitimise the UAE cabinet ruling, there will need to be a corresponding increase in the numbers of women in the workforce across all business sectors in order to provide the opportunity for women to move naturally through the ranks of business and be appointed to these top positions on merit alone.


We would be happy to advise further on this decision once the law has been published.



For further information please contact:

Amanda Bourne

Tel: +971 (0) 2 494 3624