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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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Khaleej Times: November 23, 2010

DUBAI – Women in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt believe they can strengthen cultural values and educate society through work, a study completed this month has revealed.

The study entitled “Women and the Workplace: Drivers and Barriers” has been completed by the business information company, naseba, in collaboration with YouGov Siraj, for the second annual Women in Leadership Forum Middle East, taking place today and tomorrow (November 23 and 24) at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi. The full study results will be presented at the Forum today.

The study looks at the result of a survey conducted across 1,500 respondents in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt which examined the attitudes that both employed and unemployed women have regarding the workplace.

The survey was conducted by YouGov Siraj, a full-service market research company, using an online mechanism. The survey was carried out in Arabic / English languages across the respondents who were screened for age and working status.

The fieldwork was carried out between the third week of October and the first week of November, 2010. The final sample split by country is, Egypt (33 per cent), Saudi Arabia (33 per cent) and UAE (34 per cent).

Global trends suggest that single-income households are no longer able to support the lifestyle they expect. Consequently, more and more women opt to work in order to support their families and the global financial turmoil has only accentuated this development. Overall trends are reflected regionally according to the study, as Emirati women now account for 28 per cent of the national labour force, Saudi women represent 14 per cent, and Egyptian women comprise 12 per cent.

Some common trends emerging from respondents in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt outline the fact that by being a part of the workforce, women feel they can effectively strengthen the cultural values of the family and 
educate society.

Through work, they can also achieve independence – financial or otherwise – although support from family has proven essential to success. Additionally, the study revealed that working in a mixed-gender environment is harmonious to society as it allows women to learn how to deal with men.

Financial independence appeared to be the number one motivator for working women, as 68 per cent of the respondents pointed out that salaries that do not meet their expectations represent the main barrier to
becoming employed.

Once in the workplace, women signalled less opportunity for promotion as the number one barrier in the workplace (42 per cent), followed by an increasingly stressful and demanding work environment (35 per cent) as well as discrimination in terms of salary and benefits (29 per cent). When asked to indicate their level of agreement with regards to knowledge of harassment by male colleagues, across the board 41 per cent agreed that women do face harassment in the present work environment. In terms of the non-working women sample, when given a chance to work, around 94 per cent indicated their interest, however conditions would apply. 48 per cent of respondents mentioned that the most important factor that would encourage them to join the workforce would be the proximity of the job to their homes, closely followed by the match of qualifications held and job requirements and thirdly, at 35 per cent, the career growth opportunities.

Overall conclusions outline the fact that the recession brought into greater focus the need for double-income households. It also shows that women want to break away from the stereotypes of yesterday whilst trying to balance their work and family lives.

This sees the financial provision for the household turning into a shared responsibility, as opposed to previously being regarded as the sole responsibility of a husband.

The results bring into focus the growing need of women to be a part of the workforce – not only to more actively contribute to society at large but also to contribute to their household finances, setting an example for their children.

 

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