Celebrating the UAE’s Commitment to Diversity on Emirati Women’s Day
August 28, 2023
On Emirati Women’s Day, a story shared by a female Emirati employee at GE seems particularly applicable. It involves her Emirati grandmother who was one of her biggest sources of encouragement when the employee was in university.
The young GE engineer, while still a student, was one of only a few women in her program. Her grandmother fiercely supported her. Why? Because when she was young herself, the grandmother had ambitions to go to university but wasn’t able to pursue them.
“You are privileged to be young at this time,” she would say.
The year 2023 is certainly an important and inspiring time to be an Emirati woman. This is a time when the nation’s leadership is prioritizing the involvement of women in all aspects of work and government, and all spheres of life, from science and space exploration to innovation and climate action.
Through their own grit and determination, and with encouragement from the government, Emirati women are participating fully in the UAE’s ongoing development and its international flourishing.
This includes within GE, which has a growing number of female employees. This growing cadre of women are putting into the past the many stories from so many companies and other workplaces across the region that date to five, 10 or more years ago.
Proud to be in the vanguard
In those times – particularly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields – women would find themselves the only female in a cohort in university, at a worksite, in a business unit, or out in the field.
Too many women in such positions had to ‘prove’ themselves to colleagues or customers, while also carrying the banner for all women.
Every one of them, though, has said they were glad to play that role and proud to be in the vanguard. They were strengthened by the recognition that by taking on their roles, they were opening the way for more women to come after them. And, what’s more, to these future women, they might someday serve as role models and mentors.
But being the first is difficult. They didn’t have female colleagues with whom to share experiences or build deep friendships. After all, while it certainly is difficult for fathers of newborns to return to work, it’s a whole different experience when you are the mom heading out of the house.
Across both the GE Vernova and GE Aerospace businesses in the UAE, there are a number of Emirati women employees, most of whom come from STEM backgrounds.
Growing the pipeline
As a large multinational looking to expand the gender diversity of its staff, particularly in these STEM roles, GE recognizes the benefits of having offices and facilities in the UAE. Through its support to women, the UAE offers companies like GE the potential for a larger pipeline of female talent, including female Emirati talent.
For its part, GE also contributes to this environment, having hosted a number of Women in STEM innovation challenges for students in high school and university. The most recent example was hosted alongside climate action organization UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators (UICCA) and youth skills builder INJAZ UAE.
The event engaged more than 100 university students from the UAE, 70% of whom were women. With the participation of executive leadership from GE, UICCA, INJAZ, and the US Department of State, the students were challenged to use critical thinking skills to come up with innovative solutions to the country’s energy transition.
Fostering an environment conducive to women in the workplace also means that when these women join companies like GE, they are more likely to find role models and mentors.
More than one female Emirati employee at GE has been inspired by the career journey of Dr. Dalya Al Muthanna, President of GE in UAE and the global Chief of Strategy & Operations for GE International Markets, who is a UAE national.
Collaboration is key
Another key aspect of Emirati Women’s Day is the theme for this year: “We collaborate for tomorrow.” This emphasis on cooperation resonates with GE. Collaboration is how GE works – whether within its internal teams, with partners and suppliers, with customers or with governments. It’s how GE helps solve big challenges, whether a specific project issue or the collective work to address climate change.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Emirati Women’s Day theme is inspired by the UAE’s naming 2023 the “Year of Sustainability” and its hosting late this year of COP28, the UN climate conference in Dubai. There is universal agreement, including from the COP28 Presidency and the UAE leadership, that no single entity can achieve decarbonization and the energy transition on its own. It requires many parties working together to achieve this future.
This commitment to bringing many voices and backgrounds to solve problems is central to GE’s corporate culture. It generates a supportive, diverse and professional environment that led one employee to express how she often “forgets” that she is an Emirati woman as she working among her GE colleagues.
That’s important. It means she can be her authentic self in a culture where employees talk to each other with mutual respect.
This type of culture can thrive in the UAE, where the leadership is committed to diversity and tolerance, and reflects more than anything else, the theme for this Emirati Women’s Day.
GE is proud to celebrate this vision and this aspiration with the people of the UAE on this special day.