1. What role do you think platforms like Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) and Abu Dhabi Global Market’s (ADGM) Gender Equality Initiative can play in influencing the wider integration of sustainable finance, which is something ADGM is leading on?
As global economies restart and calibrate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects - and in particular diversity and inclusion, are coming under increased investor scrutiny. To increase the focus on the “social” aspect of the ESG, we established an ADGM Gender Equality Initiative to strengthen gender balance and representation across all job functions and levels in the UAE workplace. To carry out its goals, ADGM partnered with WiSER to promote diversity of talent in the workforce, focusing on those working in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy. The collective effort has already begun to herald progress and change by demonstrating that female representation correlates to heightened business performance. We are confident that we will be able to increase momentum and impact change. It is through such partnerships that we are able to grow our ecosystem and shape a more sustainable future for all.
2. COVID-19 continues to affect lives and livelihoods around the world and we can already see that the pandemic and its economic fallout are having a regressive effect on gender equality. According to McKinsey, women's jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men's jobs. What steps do companies like Masdar and ADGM need to take for a balanced recovery?
It must be acknowledged that the region has made significant efforts in fostering women’s empowerment and gender equality, for example, with legislation such as the UAE’s Equal Pay Decree. But there is more to be done. The COVID-19 pandemic has evidently exacerbated the issue of gender imparity and threatens the progress made over the last few years. On the regulatory front, the public sector is responsible for laying the groundwork required to create an overarching equitable system through the introduction of policies and laws that protect women and safeguard their jobs. The UAE has placed considerable focus on this, resulting in the introduction of landmark frameworks and initiatives, such as the UAE Gender Balance Council and the UAE Gender Inequality Index. In recognition of its efforts, in December 2020, the UAE ranked 18th globally, and the first regionally, in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2020 Gender Inequality Index (GII).
As an international financial center located in Abu Dhabi, ADGM parallels the UAE’s commitment to advancing gender equality, women’s empowerment and female entrepreneurship. Organis]ations such as ADGM and Masdar are at the forefront of driving progress in the advancement of gender equality through initiatives that leverage our expansive network of public and private partnerships. ADGM has continued to prioritize the agenda for parity through the Gender Equality Initiative and the launch of our Gender Equality Working Group, which provides a platform for collaboration for organisations working in this area.
3. As a senior leader in the UAE’s dispute resolution industry, can you share some key challenges in attracting and retaining female talent?
In the Middle East, the role of women is transforming. The UAE has set ambitious targets to significantly boost female participation in the workforce. The hiring goals of the UAE Vision 2021 initiatives are reshaping workplaces and elevating the importance of women’s contribution to society and the wider economy. Nevertheless, as a lawyer, a CEO and a woman, I would not suggest that our work is done. Many hurdles remain.
Attracting women into the legal industry is no longer a challenge. According to extensive research conducted by the American Bar Association and The Law Society, women now outnumber men in law schools and filling junior legal positions in law firms. However, the number drastically decreases in leadership positions, particularly for women from minority ethnic communities and/or with disabilities. The Law Society points to three key areas for development: unconscious bias, the gender pay gap, and a lack of flexible and agile working. These are clearly areas for change across all industries, in every part of the world.
4. What advice would you give to young people aspiring to enter the legal industry?
Follow your passion, trust yourself and do the work that excites you the most. Seek out role models, mentors and sponsors. Most of all, work on developing your technology prowess! The ability to cultivate strategic thinking, empathy, intuition, and then mix it with legal technology, will put you in the very best position to serve your future clients.