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.

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