World Government Summit, Dubai: Women in Leadership Roles for More Resilient Societies

World Government Summit, Dubai: Women in Leadership Roles for More Resilient Societies

The under-representation of women in management and leadership positions represents one of the main issues that hampers gender equality worldwide and a main priority for governments and women's rights organisations that pursue the objective of eventually closing the gender gap. 

This global issue was a central topic of discussion at the World Government Summit, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on 29 and 30 March. During this two-day event, thousands of political leaders, senior officials and experts gathered to participate in a global conversation that aims to shape the post-pandemic agenda in areas as varied as the economy, health, sustainability and the smart cities of tomorrow. During the Summit, there was a consensus that governments must do more to ensure an increase in women’s representation in management and leadership positions in post-COVID-19 societies. 

The day before the event, the Women in Government Forum was held at Expo 2020 Dubai. According to Ohoud Al Roumi, the UAE Minister of State for Government Development and Future, who spoke at the forum, an increase in women’s representation in government positions would “help build resilient societies”. “The current pace of progress is simply not enough. We know that at the current pace, it will take another 146 years to achieve gender parity in politics. This is not about gender parity per se. It is about governance and increasing public value. We have evidence that women's leadership is fundamental to governance and building a resilient society. Women bring to the table greater responsiveness, diverse perspectives, co-operative working habits and new types of solutions,” she added. 

Women in Government

Women continue to be underrepresented in governments and democratic bodies worldwide. According to recent statistics published by the United Nations, as of September 2021, only 10 countries had a woman as head of state while only 13 national governments were led by female politicians. Similarly, only 21% of government positions are held by female ministers while women account for 50% of the cabinet representatives in only 14 countries. At the global level, it was reported that women representatives hold 25% of the parliamentary seats – i.e., an increase of only 11% since 1995.

In recent years, several countries have made significant progress in women’s empowerment. More than 30% of parliamentary seats are held by women in Europe and North America, and also in Latin America and the Caribbean. Women account for 50% of the representatives in the Federal National Council in the UAE, while 27.5% of government positions are held by female ministers. However, more still needs to be done to ensure that women are fully represented within society.

Women in Tech

Women are also considerably underrepresented in tech areas. According to Sarah Al Amiri, the UAE's Minister of State for Advanced Technology, women still face too many obstacles preventing them from entering the world of entrepreneurship, especially in terms of financial support. “Entrepreneurship and the creation of businesses are deeply rooted in existing networks, especially if you're talking about finding financial support,” she said. “It is based entirely on networks, which are shaped by a particular group around the world, and that is what I would call the first barrier.

The observation that women are underrepresented in tech and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers was also made by a panel of experts speaking at a recent Bussola Institute webinar on the future of work. The panel concluded that “women should be encouraged and supported to engage in STEM careers considering the future of work will mostly revolve around STEM roles, which will represent the lifeblood of the economy. And although women make up 39% of the global workforce, they only represent 25% of the STEM workforce worldwide.

Experts agree that gender equality will only be fulfilled when the gap between men and women in management and leadership positions and tech roles is reduced. 

The Bussola Institute is also exploring gender parity and women empowerment in its work: 

Equality of Citizenship: The Opportunities and Challenges of Empowering Women During the Pandemic

Accelerating the Transformation - Technology, COVID and the Future of Work