Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai hands out the awards. Photo: Dubai Media Office
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have been ridiculed after it emerged that all of the winners of an initiative designed to foster gender equality in the workplace were men.
Certificates and medals were awarded by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, in the categories of “best government entity supporting gender balance”, “best federal authority supporting gender balance” and “best gender balance initiative” at a ceremony on Sunday.
The awards went to the finance ministry, the federal competitiveness and statistics authority and ministry of human resources respectively, which were all represented by male awardees.
The deputy prime minister and minister of the interior, Lt Gen Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahyan, was recognised as the “best personality supporting gender balance” for his efforts creating maternity leave in the UAE’s military.
A tweet celebrating the awards met with mockery, with comments such as: “Wow really nailed the diversity there. One of those dudes was wearing gray.”
“Has The Onion hacked y’all?” another Twitter user asked, referring to the satirical website.
The UAE’s Gender Balance Index awards recognise progress made in government departments over the last year in meeting female participation goals set by the government in 2015.
“We are proud of the success of Emirati women and their role is central to shaping the future of the country,” a tweet from the official Dubai media office said. “Gender balance has become a pillar in our government institutions.”
The official Dubai press office did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
A United Nations Development Programme study from 2018 found that the UAE was the Gulf country that ranked highest for gender equality and had made significant progress in bringing women into the workforce.
The report found that by 2015, 135,000 Emirati women participated in the labour market, compared with just 1,000 in 1975, and 43% of women now hold bachelor’s degrees, compared with 23% of men.
However, according to rights groups, gender discrimination is still an entrenched problem across the UAE, particularly in the legal system, which prioritises men’s rights in family and personal status matters such as marriage, divorce and custody of children. UAE law also permits domestic violence as long as the assault does not exceed the limits set by Islamic law.