Women in the UAE

The UAE is ranked as a leading country in gender equality in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap report. This achievement comes from the fundamental belief that women and men are equal partners in society. Through a series of public and private sector initiatives, women are playing an increasingly stronger role in business, military and government. 

Gender equality is of paramount importance in the UAE, and the Constitution of the UAE guarantees equal rights for both men and women. Under the Constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, the right to practice professions, and the right to inherit property as men. Women are also guaranteed the same access to employment, health and family welfare facilities. As a leader of equality in economics, government, education and health, the UAE has been named one of the region’s pioneers. To learn more about the UAE’s pioneering women, click here to watch interviews.

Equality in Education and Literacy

While the literacy rate of both women and men in the UAE is close to 95%, today, more women than men complete secondary education and enroll in university and post-graduate institutions.

  • 77% of Emirati women enroll in higher education after secondary school and make up 70% of all university graduates in the UAE.
  • 46% of UAE university graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are women.
  • The literacy rate of women in the UAE is 95.8%.

Click the image below to see an infographic that provides more information about women in the UAE.

Women in Government and Business

Women graduates in the UAE excel in government, engineering, science, health care, media, computer technology, law, commerce, business, entrepreneurship and the energy industry.

  • The UAE has four women fighter pilots and has also trained over 30 women to work with the country’s special security forces. In September 2014, the UAE opened the region’s first military college for women, Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School. The state-of-the-art military college provides world-class training, physical fitness sessions and leadership development.

Highlighting the importance of gender in policy dialogue, in 2015, the UAE announced the establishment of the Gender Balance Council, a federal entity that increases the role of women in leadership positions and strengthens institutional capacity. Women’s participation is particularly strong in the public sector. In fact, women hold two-thirds of public sector jobs in the UAE.

  • The UAE is the first country in the region to enact legislation requiring female board members in every company and government agency.
  • Eight women serve in the UAE Cabinet—including Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, who was recognized by Forbes in 2017 as the most powerful Arab woman in government.The Cabinet also includes Shamma Al Mazrui, who serves as Minister of State for Youth Affairs.

  • The UAE has the highest number of women on Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen in 2017 with 19 Emirati women on the list.
  • Seven women hold seats within the Federal National Council (FNC), a consultative parliamentary body, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the FNC’s membership.
  • In November 2015, Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi became president of the FNC, making her the first woman in the region to lead a national assembly. She previously had made history in 2006 as the first elected female to the FNC and in 2011 was appointed deputy speaker of the FNC.
  • In October 2008, the first female judge was sworn in. Four women have been appointed as judges, two as public prosecutors and 17 as assistant public prosecutors and marriage officials.  
  • Women make up 20% of the diplomatic corps, including female ambassadors to the United Nations, Finland, Denmark, Latvia, Spain, Portugal, the Holy See and Montenegro.
  • In September of 2013, Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh became the UAE’s first female Permanent Representative to the UN and the fifth woman in the country to serve as an Ambassador. She was elected President of the UN Women Executive Board in 2017, the first Arab female president to lead the Board. Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh was also elected as Vice President for the 2017 United Nations General Assembly, representing the Asia-Pacific Group of Member States.

Meeting and Exceeding International Standards

In 2016, the UAE opened a regional office for UN Women in Abu Dhabi, the first in the region. In its continued support of the organization's dedication to women's advancement, the UAE also appointed Hind Abdulaziz Al Owais as a senior advisor to UN Women in 2015.

In 2004, the UAE became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The UAE regularly participates in and hosts international and GCC conferences on women’s issues. The UAE has signed all international treaties on protecting the rights of women. Among these are the Child Protection Convention (1997), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, (2004), the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention (1982), the Equal Remuneration Convention (1996), the Convention concerning Night Work of Women Employed in Industry (1982) and the Convention on Minimum Age (1996).

The 2015 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) status report on Millennium Development Goals recognized the positive outcome of the UAE’s target-oriented policies in a number of areas, including women’s empowerment. It particularly noted that the state legislations in the UAE do not discriminate on the basis of gender with respect to education, employment or the quality of services provided. According to the findings of the report, educational indicators show that women’s achievements in education have reached its targeted levels. 

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2016, the UAE is tied for first place globally in women’s literacy and secondary & tertiary education enrollment. 

In 2017, the UAE took part in a $100 million pledge to the World Bank’s Women’s Empowerment Fund.

The UAE released a report in the fall of 2008, Women in the United Arab Emirates: A Portrait of Progress, which outlines both the developments and challenges associated with the status of women in the Emirates. The report notes that “Having made significant progress, the UAE does not intend to stagnate with regards to its women’s empowerment policies but rather to continue and develop… The UAE intends to establish a new benchmark for gender empowerment in the region.”