FORBES: What We Can Learn From Dubai About Overcoming Gender Discrimination In The Field Of Technology
Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr grew up curious. She couldn’t help but wonder what went on behind the closed doors of the men’s majlis, where women were not permitted. Her father, a prominent figure in Sharjah, worked with others to help develop and improve the country by laying roads, building hospitals, and developing housing. Aisha fondly remembers quizzing her father throughout his time spent working with Sharjah’s founding father Sheikh Zayed to open the first post office in Sharjah. “How did government work? What went on behind the scenes?” She had to know everything.
As Aisha aged she realized that her intrigue was more than childish curiosity; she truly wanted to help improve Dubai and the UAE just like her father had done for Sharjah. However, she recognized that it was no longer basic infrastructure that was needed (as it was in her father’s day), but rather a technology infrastructure. She saw technology as a powerful tool with the ability make peoples’ lives better and improve the standard of living.
Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr worked tirelessly to help improve the nation that she cherishes so deeply. Today, she is the Director General of the Smart Dubai Office; a leading contributor in the initiative to position Dubai as a global benchmark smart city. She attributes her success to three core values; her innate curiosity and unyielding desire to learn, her internal “grit” that propels her beyond any challenge set before her, and her strong commitment to purpose. While her current challenge lies in bringing the vision of Smart Dubai to fruition, she admits that making Dubai the happiest place on earth is her life’s true calling.
Although Aisha is no stranger to gender discrimination, she’s grateful that the same inequalities that exist in America (and more specifically in the technology sector) are not as prevalent in Dubai. She attributes this positive distinction to the leadership of the UAE and their unwavering advocacy for gender equality. Unlike America, where women in tech often have to prove their worth, the UAE have unilaterally acknowledged the fact that a progressive, sustainable and healthy living environment simply cannot be achieved without the advancement of women’s talents.
In direct relation to this mindset, the UAE successfully empowers and enables women to participate and excel far beyond what is considered the norm in the western world. In fact, women currently make up 66% of the government workforce and 27.5% of cabinet positions in the UAE.
When asked how companies in America could emulate those in the UAE and promote female advancement, Dr. Bishr acknowledged that admitting the problem exists is the first step towards change. Admittedly, there tends to be a trend in America for companies to be defensive when it comes to gender inequality. Rather than acknowledging that an issue might exist, the response is often focused on deflection – reassuring the public that equality mandates are already in place. Unfortunately, without admitting to the problem it’s nearly impossible to work towards a solution. Second to acceptance, the next step must be to take action whether it’s in the form of policy changes or a shift in corporate culture. Gender inequality must be considered unacceptable if there is any hope for change.
It’s about time that America took a page out of the UAE’s book and acknowledged the fact that without women, our society simply would not function. Women make up half of the population. We need them. Period.