Why online learning creates more opportunities for women in the UAE

Why online learning creates more opportunities for women in the UAE

While online learning is steadily finding a common plan in the UAE’s agenda to further mitigate the gender gap across sectors, greater institutional collaboration will determine its success.

This year to date has been an unusual year, to say the least. While the effects of the pandemic were just about waning, new headwinds in the form of geopolitical conflicts, heightened uncertainty, and impending stagflation has surfaced, shaking up the economic dynamics of many countries. While a rapid transformation to digital is a possible solution, it can only be achieved on the back of a skilled workforce with women playing a pertinent role in it.

The need to build resilient inclusive economies with more room for women in decision-making roles has never been more pressing. Understanding this, many countries across the globe are making a conscious effort to ascertain gender parity in the larger economic sphere, but it seems we are still far from achieving the desired outcome.

According to the latest data revealed by the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2022, it will take women 132 years to reach full parity with men in the workforce.

While this appears to be an alarming number, promising trends in online learning have the potential to mitigate the gender gap in higher education and workforce development. Amid the many countries that are embracing the digital avatar of education and work, UAE has come to lead the charge across Arab countries.

Over the years, the UAE government has remained steadfastly committed to the cause of women’s economic empowerment while making educational attainment and gender parity in workplaces its top priority. With technology and digitalisation rapidly transforming the future of work and education, the nation has once again stepped up to adopt online learning as a vehicle for realising its vision of an inclusive and cohesive knowledge-based economy. While the seismic transition to digital began as an offset of the pandemic, it has come to find precedence amongst the UAE’s talent pool, especially women.

According to the Women and Skills Report 2021, women in the UAE are learning online at higher rates compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

In fact, in 2021, 44 per cent of new registered online UAE learners were women, with the share of STEM course enrollments increasing from 32 per cent in 2019 to 37 per cent in 2021. This trend has not only accelerated their return to work but also bolsters economic growth while fostering gender pay parity.

In addition, with the UAE bagging #1 ranking globally in business skills competency in the Global Skills Report 2022, women in the country are also showcasing a strong inclination toward business leadership. Among businesses, women now constitute 36 per cent of UAE learners.

When it comes to government institutions, entities such as The Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG), are wholeheartedly embracing online learning in their quest for talent transformation, while prioritising upskilling among women employees.

In 2020, women accounted for 43 per cent of overall course enrollments in ADSG’s learning initiative, up from 39 per cent in 2019. With women in the UAE increasingly recognising the importance of preparing for careers in the digital age, online learning avenues present an appealing proposition, allowing them to seamlessly integrate work and learning into their lives rather than choosing one over the other. As a result, it has come to open new doors of opportunities for them in the country.

However, while online learning is steadily finding a common plan in the UAE’s agenda to further mitigate the gender gap across sectors, greater institutional collaboration will determine its success. Governments, businesses, and higher education institutions must unite efforts to create flexible and affordable pathways for women to develop critical skills and unlock their full economic potential in the modern workforce.

Having said that, UAE’s fundamental role in shaping an inclusive future cannot be overlooked. Be it the establishment of the Gender Balance Council in 2015 or, more recently, the introduction of the 2022-2026 Gender Balance Council Strategy, which aims to further close the economic gender gap through increased women’s participation, retention, and leadership in the economy, as well as enhancing women’s financial literacy and presence in the entrepreneurial sector, the country has been a foremost advocate of women’s economic rights and security.

In addition, the UAE has been a resolute supporter of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals around achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, not only within the country but also globally.

In July 2021, the country pledged Dhs367mn to the Global Partnership for Education to support the education of women and girls around the world, setting a prime example.

With the world of work and education at an inflection point, and the UAE’s efforts deeply rooted in creating a digital economy led by a well-equipped and skilled workforce, it is well positioned to be one of the leading countries to bring about economic emancipation for women while inspiring others to follow suit.

Kais Zribi, General Manager for the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey at Coursera.

News Source: Gulf Business

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