Empowering UAE women for a transformative AI-driven future

Empowering UAE women for a transformative AI-driven future

According to the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031, one of the goals of this country is to establish itself as a leading AI destination. As evidenced in McKinsey’s ‘Women at Work: Job Opportunities in the Middle East’ report, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to bring about a doubling of job opportunities in the Middle East, so it is important to shed some light on how women workforce will fit into this strategy.

The mentioned research initiative by McKinsey investigates prospects for women’s involvement in professional and technical roles in the region. It was revealed that women’s labour force participation in the Middle East is the lowest in the world at 24.6%—half of the global average, despite the fact that female university graduates now outnumber men in some countries. As per goal five of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on enhancing gender equality, many countries and organisations have made good progress by putting in place policies and creating environments that lead to more equality, and UAE is one of these countries. According to the same study, the UAE shows impressive gender equality scores for digital inclusion, although the aim of empowering women in AI doesn’t come without its challenges.

Why Women Matter in the AI Landscape:

As per some recent statistics, in the UAE there is a growing trend of more women pursuing degrees in STEM-related fields, yet the numbers of graduates with technical skills still lag behind men, as women have a preference for degrees which typically do not provide the technical skills. However, “the Arab world has its share of pioneering women scientists”, according to H.E. Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, and we are witnessing a big shift in the above-mentioned women’s career orientation trend.

A good representation of women in AI would have significant benefits. Firstly, it would enhance the talent pool and diverse perspectives, empowering innovation, and economic growth. According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, AI could add up to $15.7 trillion to the global GDP by 2030, so this should be an additional motivation for women’s involvement in the area. Moreover, women bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table, which can lead to more inclusive AI systems that better serve the needs of diverse communities. Various perspectives are crucial for creating fairer solutions. Lastly, women’s underrepresentation in AI jobs perpetuates the gender pay gap in the tech industry, whereas closing this gap would achieve equitable progress and would contribute to empowering women in the future economy.

Empowering Transformation: Bridging the Gap:

To bridge the gender gap in AI, a comprehensive strategy is essential. The UAE has introduced several initiatives to encourage and enhance women’s technological capabilities. One such effort is the UAE National Program for Coders, which has unveiled a project to educate 100 Emirati women in AI technology, encompassing cybersecurity. Additionally, the collaboration between the Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC) and Oracle has resulted in the launch of ‘sAIdaty’. This initiative aims to establish the UAE as a global frontrunner in AI preparedness and aligns with the UAE’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031. Led by Oracle Women Leadership (OWL), ‘sAIdaty’ aims to bolster AI skills among female professionals and entrepreneurs in Dubai and beyond the UAE.

Similarly, promoting mentorship initiatives, such as ‘She Loves Tech’, UAE aims to facilitate education and mentorship, collaborating closely with global partners to establish a worldwide ecosystem for women in technology. Moreover, entities like the Gender Balance Council Dubai and Abu Dhabi Business Women Council, are contributing to achieving inclusive hiring opportunities and gender balance. These initiatives empower women to look into jobs of the future as the UAE is embracing the AI landscape.

A Collaborative Future:

Empowering women in AI in the UAE goes beyond gender equality; it is a national imperative. By addressing underlying issues and implementing solutions, the UAE can unlock its economic potential, drive social progress, and foster ethical AI development. A diverse and inclusive AI workforce drives innovation and productivity, advancing the nation’s economic aspirations. Closing the gender gap in AI signifies a commitment to equality and actively enables women to shape the future. Additionally, diverse perspectives ensure the development of AI systems prioritising fairness, inclusivity, and societal well-being. – Dr Cristina N Turcanu, Assistant Professor at the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai.