All About Eve: a Women’s Only Business Complex in Dubai

Dubai’s leading U.A.E.-based international property developer, Hydra Properties, recently announced plans to build an all-female office tower for businesswomen.

I have mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, I dislike it because it promotes segregation of the sexes and further perpetuates the idea that women need ‘different’ facilities in order to succeed in the workforce.

This article in Emirates Business 24/7 paints the development as a Utopian picture (and for some reason gives us at the very end a small list of female-run firms like The Body Shop and eBay):

Women have long been pushing for a role equal to men in the boardroom. Now […] a new office tower announced recently will give female executives a place at the top of the table.

Does the fact that only companies owned or run by women can lease office spaces really place women “at the top of the table?”

“Some people would consider this discriminatory,” the article tells us, but not Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahim, the Chief Executive Officer of Hydra Properties, who came up with the idea after seeing that women were joining the workforce in increasing numbers. Apparently, he says, “all reactions have been positive.”

But like I said, the idea that women need ‘different’ facilities in order to succeed in the workforce shines through in his next quote:

The ultimate goal of Eve’s Tower is to provide women with an environment that tends to their needs, allowing more comfort and freedom.

An artist's rendering of the Eve Tower. Image via Hydra Properties.
An artist’s rendering of the Eve Tower. Image via Hydra Properties.

What different ‘needs’ can women possibly have? Pink wallpaper and free chocolate? The only real needs I can think of are day care centers, and those can exist in normal office spaces. The option of women wearing what they want isn’t possible since men are allowed to work in the tower.

Al Fahim is also quoted as saying:

We have conceptualized the building as a tribute to the nurturing spirit of womanhood, world over. I’m confident that the tower will lead to a new awakening and unleash the latent entrepreneurial talent of UAE women and contribute to the overall growth of the nation and region.

The “nurturing spirit of womanhood?” I’d love to see how on earth that can be conceptualized. And is ‘nurturing’ the skill you really need in business?

And I don’t exactly believe the tower will “unleash” the female entrepreneurs who were all bursting to get started but couldn’t just because they didn’t want to deal with men.

Nevertheless, I still think the project has some merit.

For one, Gulf traditions are still pretty firmly ingrained in Dubai, as “liberal” as it’s supposed to be. Perhaps for many Emirati women, the option of working in an all-female environment will open up more opportunities for them.

The 20-story high tech building is also in a prime location (downtown Dubai’s Business Bay directly across Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world), so it’s not like they’re dumping all the female businesswomen in any old building.

Then again, I’m just trying to imagine how many male clients will willingly and eagerly step over the threshold of the building and into an estrogen filled workplace. With teddy bears on every desk.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    I gotta agree with you on the mixed feelings part. Yeah, it will take some of the male-dominated pressures out of women’s business lives, but it also just reinforces the idea that women are “delicate” and incapable of working alongside men, which just furthers the idea that women shouldn’t be in business, rather than examining the reasons they are pushed out and made unwelcome in male-dominated fields.

    At least they haven’t made the windows pink. (eye rolling)

  • http://theyaoireview.wordpress.com/ SakuraPassion

    *We have conceptualized the building as a tribute to the nurturing spirit of womanhood, world over.*

    O_O

    Like you, Ethar I would like to see how that can be conceptualized as well. I mean, goodness why don’t they just design the building look a giant uterus while they’re at it.

    Well anyways…..

    I can understand having mixed feelings, on the one hand it’s good to acknowledge that women are entering the workforce more, but at the same time, this whole thing seems to based on gender stereotypes.

  • BROOMSTICK

    same here, man, I hope they dont splash it with pink wallpaper, or that’s gonna be so offensive.

    Insha’allah, though, the new building will open up many good opportunities for Muslim women, both rich and poor, and inshallah, women will gain more power in the Gulf Arab states.

    the thing is, at least sexist Muslim men won’t be relucant to allow their wives to work there, you know?

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    When will people learn the lesson that separate simply is and will never be equal?

  • http://propertyindubai.info Property Dubai

    Companies should have policies to allow women to take posts or run businesses as per their understanding of the working environment. If there is a all women working tower how will that help bring more business for females, I fail to understand.

  • laila

    Laughing Out Loud) “the tower will “unleash” the female entrepreneurs who were all bursting to get started but couldn’t just because they didn’t want to deal with men.” ha-ha-ha, I can’t stop laughing. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to deal with Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahim. I wonder if Dr. Al Fahim asked women what their NEEDS are.

    And what’s up with calling the Tower “Eve”, it doesn’t sound very serious or business suitable, maybe that’s just me.

    Your right Ethar, it’s agreeable to gulf traditions but in the Gulf the female labor force participation is driven by foreign female workers (engineers, sales people, journalists, doctors etc.) There is a large gap of difference between the nationals and expatriate workers and is this fact is ignored by Dr. Sulaiman?

    These foreign women running businesses in trade, maintenance, financial brokerage, real estate, rental, manufacturing industries, restaurants, hotels, and some even in construction, mostly (if not greatly) don’t perceive the interaction with male non-relatives as taboo. My mother is a business women working in Dubai, she doesn’t find working with males as socially and culturally unacceptable, whereas many national women are prevented by social norms and traditions (their fathers, brothers, or husbands) from entering into such business-related contracts and activities.

    I wonder how it would affect her business if she leased office space from this tower. Would it be cheaper? Would she be able to freely and self-consciously have business-related contracts and activities with men inside the tower? Would the men she hired feel uncomfortable working in all-female office tower? If so would my mother have to exert extra tact and skill to resolve these discomforts?

    I think this project only has merits for the national women (and their families) who socially and culturally find working with men a taboo, not the foreign female workers who provide the greater labor force participation.

    By the way, this is a shitty tribute for my mother or any other woman, it isn’t a very high standard.

    Ethar, great piece!

  • http://dubairealestateshop.co.uk Dubai Property

    People have different thoughts on male and female interaction. But if women or for that matter any one wants to do business then be it a male or female interaction and communication is vital. Pepsi US has its head as an Indian American named Indra Noorani (apologize for any spelling mistakes) and she handles big business decisions. So that should be an inspiration to other women.

  • s.c.

    I know you apologized, but just for clarification’s sake, the name of Pepsi’s head is Indra Nooyi.

  • Rchoudh

    I understand the concept of separation of men and women. It keeps unnecessary interactions down to a bare minimum and keeps relationships strictly impersonal, particularly in school and work. I don’t see anything wrong with the building since nowadays especially long distance communication has become much more convenient (internet, videoconferencing,etc.) so that men and women working for the same company can still interact business wise without having to personally meet up.

    But maybe next time instead of constructing an entire new building like this, which obviously costs alot more, they could just construct a separate women’s wing or department within one office building so that costs are cut; long distance communication can still be maintained through electronic means.


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