Women in Business in the UAE

The situation in the UAE is very different than in neighbouring Saudi Arabia where opportunities for women are very restricted.

There is an increasing sense of entrepreneurship amongst local women which means that conditions have changed considerably in the past ten years or so. Although it is still possible to meet local men who show an overt gender bias (and these older, more traditional men are often the decision-makers) it is becoming increasingly common to encounter women in business in all sectors of the economy.

These changes have probably been driven by the sheer number of expatriates who work in the region and the influence of the many multi-national corporations who operate there and who import their beliefs on gender equality (a well as other diversity strands). It is impossible to say there is no gender bias in the UAE (Dubai is probably the most liberal of the states) but international women business travellers shouldn’t find this too much of an issue.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the United Arab Emirates

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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The United Arab Emirates is still predominantly dependent on oil revenues but, having said that, represents the most diversified economy in the Gulf region. All the Emirates have made concerted efforts over the past couple of decades to develop a future in which the country could continue to prosper in a post-fossil fuel world.

As a result of this drive for economic diversification, the UAE has become a magnet for international companies looking to develop new markets and increase their global footprint. As an affluent society, the UAE offer good opportunities across a wide-range of both consumer and industrial areas and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

However, the UAE is a Gulf state and needs to be approached with a degree of caution. Things work differently in the UAE than they probably do ‘back home’ and if you are considering doing business in the United Arab Emirates then it is essential to do some homework in advance. Do not be fooled by the fact that the country is home to a large number of expatriates from all over the world – the decision-makers are Emirati and you need to understand their local culture and business mentality if you are to have any hope of success.

Remember that relationship -building is the key but that it takes time and patience to build those relationships. Don’t try to rush things and don’t expect immediate results – you may be lucky but usually patience is an essential trait when working in the UAE.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Emirati business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips