Women's forum explores 'Work-Life balance'
Dubai, January 13, 2010
Dubai Women Establishment (DWE) held the 'Second Arab Women Leadership Forum' on the theme ‘Women’s Leadership in Organizations: Towards New Conceptions of Work-Life Balance’.
The conference explored the issue of work-life balance through the prism of organizational and government policies affecting the maintenance of equilibrium between family and work, as well as the obstacles and challenges working women face while attempting to maintain this crucial balance.
The forum was launched in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and was led by Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of DWE, wife of Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy PM, Minister of Presidential Affairs.
In her opening address, Mona Al Marri, chairperson of the DWE board, thanked Sheikh Mohammed for his continued support to the cause of women’s empowerment in the UAE.
Aisha Al Suwaidi, director of Department of Women Leadership Development DWE, head of the organizing committee of the forum said: “We are privileged to host the Second Arab Women Leadership Forum and to welcome our guests from different parts of the world to share their experiences with us through the designated sessions organized over the course of the two-day program.”
The highly interactive opening session was moderated by Al Arabiya News presenter Najwa Al Qasim, and featured panelists such as Dr Hessa Abdullah Lootah, UAE University, Department of Mass Communications; Mona J Al Bahar, head of Social Development, Emirates Foundation of Philantrophy; and Suad Mohammed Mubarak, assistant secretary, General for Working Women and Children’s Affairs.
They invited the forum’s participants to share their opinion through a live voting exercise on a number of questions concerning the provision of child care facilities at the work place and the effect it has on increasing productivity and shaping the social fabric of a community.
The panelists agreed that the provision of childcare facilities at the workplace was a fairly new development among organizations in the Middle East and hence 'assessing the positive effects it has on the productivity of working women, as well as the quality of childcare provided will take some time.'
The panelists discussed differing opinions on whether childcare centers being set up at work site help reduce levels of preoccupation among women while simultaneously providing them with an incentive to devote more energy to their work.
The opening session concluded with the consensus that the family unit has evolved to a point where both the mother and father collectively share financial and familial responsibilities, and childcare facilities and employment policies such as working hours and provision of nurseries on site need to be developed to meet the requirements of both.
'Both genders have an equal right to pursue the profession of their choice as well as to pursue positions of leadership, and it is a right rather than a concession to develop policies that enable them to do so,' the panelists agreed.
The opening session was followed by the first panel discussion on ‘Successful childcare initiatives: A case study’ which featured a pilot project conducted by DWE called The National Kindergarten Program, which is dedicated to developing policies to look after the children of employees during work.
The session was moderated by Dr Rafia Ghobash, ex-president of the Arabian Gulf University, president of the Arab Network for Women in Science and Technology, UAE. Panelists on the session include Shamsa Saleh, director of Strategic Planning and Research, DWE; and Feryal Tawakul, executive director – Community Affairs and Government Partnership Division, Dubai Customs, UAE.
Participants of the forum were provided the opportunity to view a presentation on the successful implementation of the first child care center at Dubai Customs.
The Child care centre was established as part of the National Childcare Project (NCC) launched in 2008 that encourages organizations to set up childcare facilities on site in line with a government directive to raise awareness in government departments on providing facilities that support women in the UAE’s workforce.-TradeArabia News Service