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Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Promotes Female Leadership in the Wake of COVID-19

May 6, 2020

Sheikha Shamma highlighted how women in leadership, and gender parity at the board level sets up for a more equitable, healthier future while saving lives today, during Dubai Future Academy’s Ramadan Pioneer Series

Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability, the Founder of the “Circle of Hope” Foundation and Co-Founder of Aurora50, highlighted the novel coronavirus pandemic as the social and economic crisis underlining existing challenges in gender parity, during a session titled, ‘The Role of Women in a Post COVID-19 World’.

The session, held online for the first time, is part of the Ramadan Pioneer Series, by Dubai Future Academy (DFAc), an initiative by Dubai Future Foundation (DFF). This year’s Ramadan Pioneer Series titled, ‘Life after the COVID-19’, aims to bring awareness about the implications of the novel virus in different sectors of society, identify key takeaways and build a reliable plan of action for future challenges and opportunities.

Sheikha Shamma shed light on the impact of the pandemic on the lives of women in business and society, and shared best practices on how to empower female leaders in government, the workplace and community, post COVID-19.

The open session convened ministers, government and private representatives including His Excellency Omar Sultan Al-Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Sheikha Dr.Alia Bint Humaid AlQassimi, Social Development Expert at Community Development Authority, and His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, to showcase the regional efforts and initiatives implemented towards achieving gender equality across vital sectors, and brought together more than 200 attendees from 20 countries.

Sheikha Dr.Alia bint Humaid AlQassimi, emphasized on the importance of networking, specifically for women, in order to achieve leadership roles and affirmed that the key to success lies in other women helping and supporting one other.

For his part, His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, highlighted the initiatives taken to increase the leading role of women across the Foundation, whether through managing one of the largest innovation ecosystems in the region, or by leading a global afflicted Centre in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. Currently women account for more than 50% of the Foundation’s employees, with responsibilities that span across all levels.

Placing gender equality at the center, Sheikha Shamma said: “The topic is an important component of the wider sustainability agenda which has been my focus of work for many years. From advising local organisations to partnerships with global associations, the role of women in business and society remains a recurring discussion.”

According to latest global trends, women are arguably more vulnerable to the virus, in comparison to men, due to the indirect impact on their lives. For instance, during the last three months, with the rise in home-schooling and unpaid care work, it is primarily female caregivers who are bearing the responsibility of looking after the children and elderly. Although societal norms have a role to play, Sheikha Shamma emphasized that this is partly driven by the current workforce structure.

Alongside an increase in the number of gender-based violence cases, especially within homes, across countries that have implemented COVID-19 response measures, Sheikha Shamma anticipated that such factors, combined with the depletion in the  job market, would mean a halt in the growth and development of women in the workforce. She further went on to predict that these factors also risk setting back any progress on existing gender parity built over the past decades.

Despite the majority of hurdles facing this pandemic, Sheikha Shamma reiterated there is a distinct disparity in the level of female representatives in the decision-making levels. According to a World Economic Forum report, women comprise 70 percent of frontline healthcare workers globally, however, only 25 percent of leadership roles are held by women.

Today, enterprises, from multinational corporations (MNCs) to small-medium enterprises (SMEs), have been and continue to be impacted by COVID-19 in the form of pay cuts, redundancies and closures across the board. Sheikha Shamma presented the pandemic as an opportunity for companies to reset and congregate a taskforce of their own. “With the right representation, organisations can build a leadership team to determine the best course of action for business and for all employees. It is critical that women have a voice on these teams and boards that allow them to utilise their experience and insights to anticipate challenges in order to implement right policies and measures to overcome hurdles – not just in times of crisis, but every single day of the year.”

Identifying the main barriers preventing the progression of women into leadership positions, Sheikha Shamma also spoke of the “20 for 2020” initiative, recently launched by Aurora50, that has set the wheels in motion towards increasing female representation at board-level across the UAE. By engaging a solid partner network, the tailored programme offers women a tangible roadmap to securing board of director positions, including training and workshops, executive coaching, mentorship, and hands-on board experience.

She added: “There is no time like the present for women to upskill, create and seize the right opportunities. Whether on an individual or organisational level, we all have the capacity to drive positive change. My hope is that during these difficult times, we will not be held back, but rather, we will utilise our technologies and shift in organisational mindset to expedite initiatives that support gender parity more quickly. It Is imperative that we join forces and collectively contribute to this development.”

Dubai Future Academy is hosting this year’s Ramadan Pioneer Series under the theme, ‘Life After COVID-19’. Spread across 16 session, the series aims to bring renowned speakers and experts to understand about the implications of the disease in different sectors of society, identify key takeaways and mount a reliable plan of action for future challenges and opportunities. Those interested in attending the sessions can register through the Dubai Future Academy website: