Striving to follow in her great-grandfather's footsteps, Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan is the driving force behind an initiative that aims to promote gender equality in the workplace in the UAE. More specifically, she intends to get 20 competent women on 20 UAE company executive boards by 2020.

Sheikha Shamma is inspired by her great-grandfather Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, the nation's founding father and 30-year ruler who was never happier than seeing "women assume their rightful role in society and fulfill their potential."

According to The National, Sheikha Shamma not only recognizes "the value that women bring to the workplace but also the unique challenges they face because of their gender."

"I hope to see a future that is gender-balanced and where initiatives like my own will no longer be necessary, simply because it will be the norm," she told the English-language daily.

In September, the Women's Empowerment and Equality Board (WEEB), an initiative by Sheikha Shamma encouraging the empowerment of all women in all aspects of life across Abu Dhabi, held a meeting which included workshops on leadership, strengths and values. 

The "20 for 2020" initiative is a necessary step to achieve all of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality and women's empowerment. 

The gender equality tactic is not the only way Sheikha Shamma is working towards the attainment of those 17 goalsApart from being the CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability - a company that identifies, develops, and invests in high performing ventures and provides advisory services for global sustainability - Sheikha Shamma is also the founder of the Abu Dhabi-based non-governmental organization Circle of Hope.

The NGO is home to three initiatives including WEEB, Beacon of Hope (which aspires to bring life, light and literacy to impoverished children globally), as well as Wanna Read? (an initiative that creates warm, friendly and stimulating environments in hospitals across the UAE). 

In July, she was honored by the Moller Institute at Churchill College, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England, where her words now hang next to those of Michelle Obama. Her quote states, "It is our collective duty to lead responsibly to create a better world for future generations."

Quote by Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan displayed at the Moller Institute at the University of Cambridge. Source: Twitter/thelongrunorg

The second edition of the Women's Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS) will be held in Sharjah on Dec. 10 and 11, under the theme "Drivers of Change." 

WEEGS is a "significant collaboration between NAMA Women Advancement Establishment - an NGO ensuring gender equality to a broader scope that aims to see women become influential key members of society - and United Nations Women, addressing equal opportunities for women entrepreneurs locally and globally."

Over 1,000 attendees are expected to appear at Sharjah's Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Center for the summit to discuss women's empowerment and gender equality both economically and professionally. 

This summit is a major step in the country's progress towards gender equality. This comes months after Emirati authorities were criticized for awarding four men during a ceremony of an initiative designed to foster gender equality in the workplace.

The awards given were for four categories: Best government entity supporting gender balance, best federal authority supporting gender balance, best gender balance initiative, and best personality supporting gender balance.

According to United Nations Women's 2017-2018 report, the UAE was one of the top 15 government donors "towards making gender equality and women's empowerment a global priority, as well as supporting UN Women's life-changing programs in 90 countries."

Ranking at 121 worldwide in 2018, the UAE was the third smallest gender gap in the MENA region and second in the Arab world after Tunisia. According to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, the country ranks 68th in equality in Political Empowerment of Genders, 95th in Educational Attainment, 94th in Health and Longevity of Life, and 134th in Economic Participation and Opportunity.