UAE women reverse gender gap in education, outperform their male counterparts

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UAE women making inroads in science, engineering and mathematics says Economist Intelligence Unit

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UAE women reverse gender gap in education, outperform their male counterparts. Image courtesy-EIU

• UAE women making inroads in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related careers
• Increase in women in STEM careers would give GDP a boost estimated at 12%
• Emirati perceptions of women studying and working in science and technology evolving quickly

The UAE has made considerable progress in empowering women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – and women are responding with strong academic performance, says a new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

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The report titled ‘UAE Economic Vision: Women in science, technology and engineering‘ shows that Emirati women have reversed a gender gap in education and are now outperforming their male counterparts, including in STEM courses. UAE-based educators describe female Emirati students as being more dedicated and determined than their male colleagues.

Greater female participation in STEM careers is expected to benefit the economy at large. A study by Booz Allen estimates that, if the UAE follows the pattern of Greece, Ireland and Spain (where female participation in STEM careers grew by 15-20% over three decades), this could lead to an increase in productivity and consumption that would boost GDP by 12%.

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Aviva Freudmann, the editor of the report, said:

“Women in the UAE have made significant progress over the last 20 years, to a point now where they make up 71% of graduates of government universities. By global standards, there is some way to go, but progress has been swift and the state’s backing is proving a powerful catalyst. The survey shows women now see potential careers in science, technology and engineering as prestigious, interesting and instrumental in contributing to the country’s development.”

Report Summary:

  • The UAE has made admirable progress in empowering women. However, compared to international standards, female participation less in the country’s workforce
  • STEM education is the long-term solution to Emirati unemployment. The various initiatives by the UAE government will require STEM graduates.
  • Emiratisation in science, technology and engineering (STE) will only work if citizens’ attitudes about the private sector change. Public sector is still the preferred choice for many Emiratis, mainly due to reduced working hours and more number of holidays that Government and related entities offer.
  • Female UAE-based STEM students view education as more than a means to make money. They find it rewarding and also a way to give back to the nation towards its development.
  • Perceptions of females studying and working in STE are evolving quickly. Typically viewed as a man’s domain, UAE women are fast entering STEM-related areas – and the UAE government is providing a solid backing for this
  • Women have made gains in STE work, but challenges still exist. Several obstacles including work-life balance, gender discrimination and cultural obstacles such as women’s role in society, etc all hamper women entering the workforce.
  • Government efforts to empower women in STEM education will benefit the economy in the long-term. If the female labour participation rate reaches the same level as that for men, GDP could benefit by as much as 12%.

The report notes that if the country is to meet its ambitious economic and localisation goals, it’s very important to increase the participation of UAE females in the country’s work force. The report also identifies a number of priorities to bring more women into the mainstream:

  • Take active measures to create passion in young Emirati children for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • Top priority must be given to reforming the high school education system
  • Steps need to be taken to create more female role models and mentors
  • Bring relevant education and jobs to rural regions
  • Further measures are needed to foster a work environment that is more supportive of UAE women.
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