Dubai: The 16th edition of the Women in Leadership (WIL) Economic Forum will be held in Dubai from November 19-20.
The forum, which will attract 300 participants, will focus on gender parity in business and the corporate world, and developing economies through the participation of female entrepreneurs.
"Women's participation has been proven time and again to provide added momentum to economic growth at national and global levels. The fact remains, however, that gender disparity looms large as a challenge to the overall productivity at both micro and macroeconomic levels," said Sophie Le Ray, chief executive officer of Naseba, a French business facilitation company, during a press conference in Dubai on Tuesday.
The forum will highlight the challenges faced by women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and their role in corporate governance and in shaping the future of investments, among many other topics.
In the Middle East and North Africa, where 95 per cent of private enterprises are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 2.5 per cent of women are entrepreneurs, she said.
According to her, women in the region that want to start their own businesses do not face major issues in accessing funds. However, she said that they need a supporting system, referring to bodies, such as the chambers of commerce, adding that these are being put in place.
The UAE is among the regional countries where women are progressing in different fields, such as business and politics, according to Hind Yousef Al Youha, director of strategic planning and performance at the UAE Ministry of Economy.
"Emirati women have gone on to become federal ministers, judges, CEOs and senior management professionals in diverse sectors," she said.
However, employed women in the UAE and elsewhere face challenges in balancing work and their responsibilities in their homes, according to Le Ray.
According to the global Social Progress Index released last month, the UAE took the first spot globally for the highest rate of enrolment in secondary education.
Despite a high literacy rate, the unemployment rate of women in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stands at 21.8 per cent compared to men's unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent, Le Ray said.