4-7 December 2023

Dubai World Trade Centre

ESG in Focus at the Big 5 – Her Highness Sheikha Shamma Speaks at Inaugural Global Construction Impact Summit as Women in Construction Takes Center Stage

  • UAE among the countries most vulnerable to climate change and warming at twice the global average, attendees hear
  • Just 10 per cent of construction industry workers are female, reveals Her Excellency Chaltu Sani, Ethiopia’s Minister of Urban and Infrastructure Development

UAE’s first female aviation engineer, Dr Eng Suaad Al Shamsi provides stirring keynote address: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’

Her Highness Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Executive Director at UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators, provided the keynote speech at the inaugural Global Construction Impact Summit yesterday (December 7) at Dubai World Trade Centre, stressing that the UAE is ready to drive forward with its vision for a greener and cleaner future.

The Summit took place at the four-day Big 5, the largest and most influential building and construction event in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Concluding today, this year’s show features more than 2,000 exhibitors from across 60 countries.

Addressing an audience of disruptors, innovators, ESG advisors, and policymakers, Sheikha Shamma told attendees the UAE is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change and warming at twice the global average. As host of next year’s COP28, the UAE is “steadfastly focused” on transforming the country into one powered by clean and renewable energy sources, together with technological advancements and climate-smart solutions, she added. And the building sector must be a key point of focus.


“The worldwide building and construction sector contributes to at least 39 per cent of global carbon emissions,” she said. “It has been speculated that these emissions are much higher in the UAE due to cooling demands and the less-than-optimum energy performance of existing buildings. In light of this, adopting green building energy efficiency and renewable energy measures is at the forefront of climate change mitigation policies within the UAE.

“To further the UAE Government’s commitment to sustainability and climate action, the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators has been set up. We work to ensure that all key stakeholders are engaged – locally, regionally, and globally. At UICCA, we are looking to provide policy recommendations backed by science and research and catalyze the green economy in the region.”

Speaking about the Summit, she added: “I am excited by the potential that this platform has for creating a positive impact on the environment while facilitating sustainable solutions for tomorrow.”

In addition to contributing to the critical success of COP28, UICCA will work with global companies looking to embark on their sustainability journey in the region, especially in the UAE. Through its role as an accelerator, UICCA will also support technology start-ups globally and locally in expanding their business footprint within the region. This is in line with UICCA’s commitment to delivering UAE’s Net Zero Strategy in 2050 by enhancing the contribution of sustainability-linked services, products, and jobs to UAE’s GDP and positioning the nation as the ‘Sustainable Innovation Capital’ of the MENA region.

Women in Construction Forum

Also taking place at this year’s Big 5 is the Women in Construction Forum, a platform promoting female empowerment within an industry in which women make up just 10 per cent of all workers. The Forum was officially opened by Her Excellency Chaltu Sani, Ethiopia’s Minister of Urban and Infrastructure Development, who highlighted the positive work being done in her country in terms of equal opportunities and invited attendees to visit Big 5 Construct Ethiopia, set to take place from 18-20 May 2023 in Addis Ababa.

“It is a pleasure for me as a woman to share worldwide experience and witness a global trend in the construction sector shifting towards gender balance, even if we still have a long way to go,” she said. “Fortunately, this has resonance in Ethiopia where our modern government’s priority is to promote women to challenging positions of leadership. Women now account for 36 per cent of cabinet members, [so] part of the solution is right in front of us: Unleashing the leadership of women.

“Yet it’s not just about promoting diversity and giving more opportunities to them. It’s also about utilizing the undervalued gem of female leadership – and to achieve this we must work to inspire future generations.”


Ms Sani’s introduction was followed by a stirring keynote address from the UAE’s first female aviation engineer, Dr Engineer Suaad Al Shamsi, who discussed her unique journey and urged women to follow their dreams and inspire other women. Dr Al Shamsi is an aircraft engineer and aviation advisor at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Midfield Terminal.

“When I graduated, during my first interview they told me I am the first Emirati engineer and I was dancing and jumping for joy,” said Dr Al Shamsi, who has since accumulated 18 years of industry experience. “But soon I realized the most important thing is not the title, but how we support the new generation – we need to inspire, not just tell our story. We never believe women with high heels or small shorts or an abaya or jeans, can work in aviation. Why not? If she can run a house and control a man and kids, why can she not work in construction?”

Dressed in a black abaya, Dr Shamsi added: “At work, I don’t wear the abaya and the makeup – I love the heat. When you are passionate about your career, it means you can handle any heat. People often think if you are an engineer or a minister or whatever, your social life must be a disaster, but it’s not true. The most important thing is finding the balance: Be passionate about your career, be passionate about your life, be passionate about the coffee you are drinking. That is what will make you successful, in any field. If you can dream it, you can do it – and achieve it with a big smile.”


More than 2,000 participants from 60 countries are taking part in the event this week, which hosts 20 national pavilions – including Italy, KSA, Turkey, Greece, Germany and many others – bringing together the key stakeholders from across the full construction value-chain to network, learn, and do business.