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    Strategies to Improve Workplace Diversity and Inclusion in UAE

    July 8, 2024

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    Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

    Workplace diversity and inclusion have become essential components in modern business practices globally, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) follows suit. The UAE has been experiencing significant growth throughout recent years and has attracted a diverse population from different corners of the world.

    The UAE meets all Western standards and requirements in attracting, retaining, and supporting diversified personnel. Businesses in the UAE are finding that diversity and inclusion in the workplace are becoming both a social imperative and a strategic advantage to ensure sustainable development and remain competitive. Only a diverse and inclusive culture can create a resilient, innovative, and high-performing workforce in the UAE.

    In this blog, we’ll help you discover the challenges faced in workforce diversity and how to overcome them.

    Understanding Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

    Workplace diversity refers to the presence of differences within a given setting, particularly in the context of a professional environment. These differences can encompass various attributes such as:

    • Demographic diversity: Age, gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality.
    • Experiential diversity: Educational background, professional experience, and skills.
    • Cognitive diversity: Differences in perspectives, thinking styles, and problem-solving approaches.

    Conversely, inclusion creates an environment where everyone feels respected, accepted, and valued. An inclusive workplace ensures that:

    • All employees have equal opportunities for growth and development.
    • Diverse voices are heard and considered in decision-making processes.
    • All employees have a sense of belonging, regardless of their background or characteristics.

    Diversity and inclusion work together to foster an environment where all employees can thrive and contribute to their fullest potential.

    When discussing their significance, workplace diversity and inclusion are magnified due to the unique socio-economic and cultural landscape of the region.

    Multinational Workforce

    The UAE is home to a highly diverse population, with expatriates making up a significant portion of the workforce. This multicultural environment demands a focus on diversity and inclusion to ensure harmonious and productive collaboration among employees from different cultural backgrounds.

    Economic Vision and Growth

    The United Arab Emirates has a diverse population, with expatriate employees comprising a significant workforce. Therefore, the UAE is an example of a multicultural environment. To help people from different cultures work together optimally, the UAE’s policy should be centered on diversity and inclusion.

    Legal and Regulatory Frameworks

    Abiding by governmental initiatives and policies that promote diversity and inclusion in the UAE ensures its empowerment. In particular, the existing Emiratization programs are focused on including more UAE nationals in the country's labor force. The government provides impressive measures to support female inclusion in the labor market.

    Social Cohesion and Stability

    Creating an inclusive work environment is essential for maintaining the social stability and cohesion of a country with more than 200 nationalities. A diverse work environment prevents conflicts and misunderstandings related to cultural and other differences. Such a society is more peaceful and cooperative.

    Corporate Performance and Innovation

    Multiple studies show that diverse and inclusive teams outperform their homogenous counterparts in innovation and financial performance. In the highly competitive UAE markets, the ability to benefit from diversity could give companies a competitive advantage.

    Challenges to Workplace Diversity and Inclusion in the UAE

    Despite the many benefits of workplace diversity and inclusion, UAE organizations need help to effectively implement these practices. Some of the key challenges include cultural barriers, gender equality issues, language and communication challenges, and a lack of awareness and understanding.

    Cultural Barriers and Sensitivities

    • Cultural Differences: Individuals in the UAE’s workforce come from diverse cultural backgrounds, each with its values, traditions, and workplace behaviors. Mismanagement of these cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
    • Social Norms and Practices: Certain social norms and practices in the UAE might affect workplace interactions. For example, hierarchical structures and deference to authority can impact open communication and employees' willingness to express dissenting opinions.
    • Religious Sensitivities: The UAE’s Islamic culture influences daily life and work in the country.  For instance, accommodating religious practices such as prayer times and Ramadan fasting can pose logistical challenges for businesses not familiar with these requirements.

    Gender Equality Issues

    • Representation and Participation: Despite significant progress, women in the UAE still face challenges in achieving equal representation and participation in the workforce, particularly in leadership roles. Traditional gender roles and societal expectations can hinder women's career advancement.
    • Work-life Balance: Balancing professional responsibilities with familial and societal expectations can be challenging for women. This is especially pertinent in a culture where family responsibilities are often prioritized.
    • Workplace Policies: Policies and practices that do not support gender equality, such as inadequate maternity leave or lack of childcare facilities, can further perpetuate gender disparities.

    Language and Communication Challenges

    • Multilingual Workforce: The UAE’s diverse workforce often includes employees who speak different languages. This multilingual environment can lead to communication barriers and misunderstandings, especially when employees are not proficient in the primary business language, English or Arabic.
    • Non-verbal Communication: Cultural differences in non-verbal communication styles, such as body language, gestures, and eye contact, can lead to misinterpretations and miscommunication.
    • Translation and Interpretation: Ensuring accurate translation and interpretation of important documents and communications is crucial but presents challenges. Miscommunication due to poor translation can lead to errors and inefficiencies.

    Lack of Awareness and Understanding

    • Stereotypes and Bias: Unconscious biases and stereotypes about different nationalities, genders, and cultures can hinder efforts for diversity and inclusion. These biases can affect hiring decisions, performance evaluations, and promotions.
    • Training and Education: Adequate training and education on diversity and inclusion may be lacking for employees and management. Proper understanding makes it easier to create and maintain an inclusive workplace environment.
    • Resistance to Change: Some employees and managers may resist diversity and inclusion initiatives due to a lack of understanding of their benefits or fear of change. Overcoming this resistance requires ongoing education and clear communication of the advantages of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

    Strategies to Improve Workplace Diversity and Inclusion in the UAE

    1. Leadership Commitment and Accountability

    Importance of Leadership Buy-in

    • Leaders must demonstrate a visible commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I) to set the organizational tone and culture.
    • Leadership buy-in ensures the necessary resources are allocated to D&I initiatives.
    • Leadership prioritization of D&I fosters a cultural shift towards inclusivity at all organizational levels.

    Setting Diversity and Inclusion Goals

    • Establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals for D&I.
    • Develop detailed action plans that outline the steps needed to achieve these goals.
    • Regularly review and adjust goals and strategies to remain relevant and effective.

    Holding Leaders Accountable for Progress

    • Include D&I metrics in leaders' performance evaluations.
    • Provide incentives for achieving D&I goals and consequences for failing to make progress.
    • Implement transparent reporting systems to track and communicate progress.
    • Establish channels for employee feedback on D&I efforts to inform and adjust strategies.
    1. Recruitment and Hiring Practices

    Creating Diverse Job Descriptions

    • Use inclusive language that attracts a broad range of candidates.
    • Focus on essential skills and competencies rather than strict experience requirements that may exclude diverse candidates.

    Implementing Blind Resume Screening

    • Remove names, ages, and other personal identifiers from resumes to prevent unconscious bias.
    • Use standardized criteria to evaluate candidates objectively.

    Building Diverse Candidate Pipelines

    • Partner with organizations, universities, and professional groups that support underrepresented communities.
    • Create programs to attract and develop diverse talent early in their careers.
    1. Diversity Training and Education

    Cultural Sensitivity Training

    • Train employees on the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding different cultural perspectives.
    • Provide practical tools and strategies for interacting respectfully in a multicultural environment.

    Unconscious Bias Training

    • Help employees identify their own unconscious biases.
    • Teach strategies to mitigate the impact of these biases on decision-making.

    Inclusive Language and Communication Workshops

    • Educate employees on using inclusive language in all forms of communication.
    • Develop skills for effective and respectful communication in a diverse workplace.
    1. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

    Establishing ERGs for Underrepresented Groups

    • Form ERGs to provide support networks for underrepresented employees.
    • Officially recognize and support ERGs within the organizational structure.

    Providing a Platform for Networking and Support

    • Organize events and activities that facilitate networking and support.
    • Develop mentorship programs within ERGs.

    Encouraging ERGs to Drive Initiatives

    • Encourage ERGs to develop and lead D&I initiatives.
    • Provide necessary funding and resources for ERG-led projects.
    1. Inclusive Policies and Benefits

    Flexible Work Arrangements

    • Implement policies that support flexible working hours and remote work options.
    • Ensure flexibility caters to the diverse needs of all employees.

    Parental Leave Policies

    • Create equitable parental leave policies that support all parents.
    • Provide resources and support for returning parents.

    Equal Opportunities for Career Growth

    • Offer equal access to training and development programs.
    • Ensure promotion criteria are transparent and inclusive.
    1. Creating an Inclusive Work Culture

    Promoting Open and Respectful Communication

    • Establish open channels for communication where all employees feel safe to voice their opinions.
    • Provide training on respectful communication and active listening.

    Encouraging Diversity in Decision-Making

    • Form diverse committees and panels for decision-making processes.
    • Encourage practices that ensure all voices are heard in meetings and discussions.

    Celebrating Diversity and Cultural Events

    • Recognize and celebrate a variety of cultural events and holidays.
    • Encourage employee participation in planning and celebrating these events.
    1. Evaluation and Measurement

    Conducting Diversity Audits

    • Regularly conduct audits to assess the organization's current state of diversity and inclusion.
    • Identify areas for improvement based on audit findings.

    Collecting Employee Feedback

    • Use surveys, focus groups, and forums to gather employee feedback on D&I efforts.
    • Use feedback to improve D&I initiatives continuously.

    Tracking Progress and Making Necessary Adjustments

    • Track key performance indicators related to D&I goals.
    • Adjust strategies and initiatives based on progress and feedback to ensure ongoing improvement.

    Success Story of Emirates Group

    Emirates Group, one of the leading global aviation companies based in Dubai, has significantly promoted diversity and inclusion within its workforce.

    Diversity Initiatives

    • Inclusive Hiring Practices: Emirates Group recruits talent from over 160 nationalities, ensuring a diverse mix of employees.
    • Women in Leadership: The company has focused on increasing female representation in leadership roles, with initiatives to mentor and develop female employees.
    • Cultural Sensitivity Training: Regular training programs enhance cultural awareness and sensitivity among employees, fostering an inclusive work environment.


    • Employee Engagement: The diverse and inclusive environment has led to high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.
    • Global Recognition: Emirates Group's commitment to diversity has been recognized globally, contributing to its reputation as an employer of choice.

    Final Words

    In a multicultural country like the UAE, where workplace diversity leads to a more dynamic and competitive business, it is important to implement diversity and inclusion strategies. Key strategies include leadership commitment and accountability, recruitment and hiring practices, diversity training and education, employee resource groups (ERGs), inclusive policies and benefits, creating an inclusive work culture, and evaluation and measurement. 

    Organizations can create a more equitable and dynamic workplace by prioritizing diversity and inclusion, better serve their diverse customer base, and contribute to a more inclusive society. Now is the time for organizations to take bold steps toward building a more inclusive future.

    Are you looking to simplify HR processes and seamlessly integrate an HR framework into your organization? Darwinbox has the expertise you need. We specialize in identifying key roles, setting success criteria, and finding top talent. With a proven track record of assisting over 880 enterprises globally, we enhance HR operations with ease. Ready to see how it works? Schedule a demo with us today.


    Workplace diversity encompasses the variety of individual differences, while inclusion involves creating an environment where everyone feels respected and valued. It ensures equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of their backgrounds.
    Workplace diversity is crucial in the UAE due to its diverse population, fostering innovation, creativity, and tolerance. Embracing diversity aligns with the country's vision of inclusivity and economic growth.
    Companies can enhance workplace diversity by implementing inclusive hiring practices, fostering an inclusive culture through training and leadership commitment, and providing equal opportunities for all employees.
    Workplace diversity challenges in the UAE include cultural barriers, gender equality issues, language challenges, and a lack of awareness. Addressing these requires education, training, and policy changes.
    Unconscious bias can be mitigated through awareness programs, blind recruitment processes, and fostering an inclusive culture where diverse perspectives are valued and respected.
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