The Executive Director of Dubai Design District on the driving forces of the UAE's creative economy

When female empowerment is embedded into the ethos of our economy and community, everyone thrives. The participation of women in social and economic spheres has a ripple effect on families, communities and countries. According to the World Economic Forum, empowering women to participate equally in the global economy could add US$28 trillion in GDP growth by 2025.

Enabling financial independence is integral to women’s rights and the gender equality agenda. Educating and upskilling women and girls to be active participants in the labour market gives them a chance to keep up with the changing pace of the world and the digital transformation. Most importantly, it uplifts the generations that follow.

The UAE has been a model of top-down governance ensuring gender balanced hiring and entrepreneurship in both private and public sectors, reinforced by the UAE Gender Balance Council. From entrepreneurship to leadership, women have earned a rightful place in the economy and policymaking. The Dubai Creative Economy Strategy, which also aims at doubling the number of local creators from 70,000 in 2020 to 140,000 by 2025, offers an opportunity to amplify the contribution of women in the industry, while expanding the space to welcome and empower more. 

Dubai offers a highly connected design and creative ecosystem, which balances global commercial appeal with a platform for homegrown talent. Our vibrant community at Dubai Design District (d3) is a shining case study where female talent, including a growing cadre of Emirati women, is at the helm of businesses with global resonance.

It gives me enormous excitement to see that d3-based female talent is breathing life into the region’s creative economy, from innovative artists to designers in fashion, jewellery and interior, to architects. Since its inception, d3 has served as a veritable platform for insightful dialogue for talent across the region. We have an unwavering commitment to nurture, support and partner with talent.  Today, I take great pride in spearheading a community of female creatives that’s effectively moving the needle for the creative economy.

Take, for example, MOMA International Design, an architectural firm by Maha Al Bwardy. From individual residences to 5-star hotels, museums, innovation centres and landscaping projects, the d3-based studio has designed compelling developments across the UAE as well as in Manila, Riyadh and more. The studio has even earned significant recognition, including the Emergent Designer Award from Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East.

Multidisciplinary designer Aljoud Lootah launched a studio in our district to produce artisanal interior products interpreting Emirati culture. Her influence on the local design narrative is gaining traction with projects associated with the Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and the UAE’s Ministry of Presidential Affairs to her credit.

Hanadi Al Hawi brings an adventurous perspective to her abaya label, The Kape. The modest fashion label is growing rapidly and boasts patrons like HH Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, the founder and CEO of children’s publisher Kalemat Group, and HE Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, the Minister of Community Development.

I take great pride in spearheading a community of female creatives that’s effectively moving the needle for the creative economy.

Aisha Al Shamsi founded ARQA Jewellry for collections inspried by modern art and architecture. The list of formidable female figures goes on, representing the tip of a resolute iceberg that spans across the region.

These stories are not only examples of individual success, but also speak to the larger function women play in advancing entrepreneurship and innovation. Reinforcing the platform on which they experiment, inspire and–in true d3 fashion–rethink the regular is integral to the creative sector’s longevity as well as our economic resilience. 

It’s essential that we continue collaborating to develop practical and sustainable opportunities for women to build successful careers and contribute to the progress of the nation, in line with our leadership’s wise directives. As we approach the halfway mark for the Dubai Creative Economy, we must earnestly reflect on our achievements so far, and strive to ensure that our platforms serving to cement equality remain flexible and in tune with the future world. 

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