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01 May 2013
DSG’s Gender and Public Policy Program Examines Strategies to Increase Women’s Participation in Workforce

The Gender and Public Policy Program hosted Dr. Sylvia Maier, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Center for Global Affairs in New York University as part of its seminar series. During the seminar, entitled“From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Breaking Down Barriers, Realizing Potential,” Dr. Maier spoke about the need to develop a national strategy to retain highly qualified women in the workforce, especially as part of a successful implementation of the UAE's Emiratization policy.
Dr Maier added: “If we are to facilitate gender equality, we must also raise awareness on the significant contributions that highly qualified women make to the national economy. In addition to encouraging the development of networking and mentoring opportunities between and among senior and junior female and male professionals, we must foster a ‘Can Do It’ attitudeamong girls from an early age.”
The seminar explored from a cross-national perspective the reasons behind the gender gap in the labor force, identifying ways that women can leverage their academic achievements to shape successful careers. The discussion also highlighted strategies for professional advancement that women have developed or adapted from their male peers to overcome social and structural obstacles for realizing their full potential. 
In addition, women’slow participation in the labor force has also been attributed to cultural pressures and expectations that women, once married, should prioritize their responsibilities as wives and mothers. This mindset has particularly contributed to the high dropout rates at the workplace following the birth of the first child,leaving only a small number of women ‘in the pipeline’ for senior positions. 
Other reasons include lack of child care facilities outside the home, limited number of suitable jobs in the public sector and keen competition from male counterparts for jobs, as well aslow prestige of private sector jobs and low awareness of women-specific work-life balance needs. Lack of available mentoring and networking opportunities to support junior women as they struggle to balance career and family also tilt the balance against women.
Ghalia Gargani, Acting Director of the Gender and Public Policy Program,said:“We are delighted to have had the opportunity to host Sylvia Maierand gain from her cross national perspective based on the interesting research she has conducted in the region. The Gender and Public Policy Program at DSG will continue to focus its efforts on similar important issues. Later this year, we will be launching a regional research initiative on family formation and work, which will look at how processes of career progression and family formation intersect in the lives of young men and women in the GCC and how notions of work, family and care are negotiated.” 
Dr Maier also recommended ways for replicating the phenomenally successful strategies of GCC governments to increase women's access to higher education in Yemen and Afghanistan, where the gender makes up only between 20- 30 percent of the student body.
Dr Sylvia Maier’s primary fields of interest are women's rights and empowerment in the Global South, with a particular focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UAE where she has worked, taught and conducted extensive field research. Her expertise extends to honor-based violence, as well as social and political reform movements in the Middle East, Gulf and South Central Asia. Dr Maier has spoken and published on these and related subjects and is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled "Paradise in Her Hands: Women's Empowerment in Afghanistan."
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