‘The Bayt.com Status of Working Women in the Middle East’ survey, recently conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s leading career site, and YouGov, a research and consulting organization, has revealed that while 50 per cent of women working in mixed gender workplaces in the UAE consider recruitment and selection opportunities to be made regardless of gender, 39 per cent believe that women are treated less favourably in terms of salary – which is unsatisfactory to the 50 per cent of women who work to become financially independent.
Reasons for Working
Women in the MENA region mostly seek employment in order to be more financially independent (48 per cent) and in order to support or financially contribute to their household (46 per cent). For 45 per cent of respondents, taking a job is a means to broaden their perspectives on life.
In the UAE, being able to contribute financially to their household is the top reason for women to seek employment, as stated by 57 per cent of respondents. This is followed by the desire to become financially independent (50 per cent), and to secure their family or children’s future (47 per cent).
Employment and Years in the Workplace
Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of MENA respondents state that they are employed in a mixed gender workplace, and most respondents have 1-2 years (17 per cent) of work experience in total. 15 per cent have 3-4 years of experience, and 13 per cent have 5-6 years of experience. Most women (96 per cent) in the UAE have 10 years or less work experience.
Across the region, most respondents state that they work in private multinationals (22 per cent) and private small-medium local companies (21 per cent), followed by large local private sector companies and the public or government sector (16 per cent each). The private sector is the main source of employment for respondents in the UAE, with 31 per cent employed by multinationals, 21 per cent hired by small or medium local companies, and 13 per cent working with large local companies.
MENA-wide, most women (22 per cent) are relatively new to their current industry, having spent 1-2 years in it. This is no different in the UAE, where 24 per cent of women claim the same, with 20 per cent having spent 3-4 years in their current industry. 53 per cent of women across MENA have spent 2 years or less in their current company, analogously as in the UAE (56 per cent).
Two in five women who work in a mixed gender workplace are ‘extremely’ comfortable working in mixed-gender environments, with a further 31 per cent who claim they are comfortable ‘to some extent’. Close to half (48 per cent) of women working in mixed gender workplaces in the UAE are ‘extremely’ comfortable in working in a mixed environment, with 32 per cent who are comfortable to do so to some extent. 77 per cent of respondents from the UAE claim that their current workplace has men and women working together.
Women working in a mixed gender environment around the MENA region mostly report to a male manager (77 per cent), and have more men than women in their workplace (58 per cent). Two thirds (66 per cent) claim to have no preference regarding the gender of their manager. In the UAE, 75 per cent of women report to a male manager, and 65 per cent claim to have more men than women in their workplace, while 73 per cent have no preference for reporting to a man or a woman.
Discrimination around the region is considered to be one of the challenges in the work environment by the 23 per cent of the respondents. 55 per cent stated that they were not asked any discriminatory questions during job interviews (such as ‘are you planning to get married?’ or ‘are you planning to have children?’) and 54 per cent of respondents working in a mixed gender environment cannot think of any situation in their workplace where they were either favoured or discriminated against because of their gender.
Most respondents working in mixed gender environments in the MENA region consider men and women to be treated equally when considering the number of working hours (65 per cent), training and development (60 per cent),advice and support (54 per cent) and recruitment and selection (51 per cent). More concern for equality is present when it comes to benefits (49 per cent state equal treatment, 27 per cent state women are treated less favourably), salary (46 per cent state equal treatment, 31 per cent state women are treated less favourably), and career progression (42 per cent state equal treatment, 33 per cent state women are treated less favourably).
Women in the UAE consider that they are treated equally in terms of working hours (69 per cent), training and development (59 per cent) and recruitment and selection (50 per cent). However, they are split when it comes to career progression (38 per cent state equal treatment, while 38 per cent consider women to be treated less favourably). On a negative note, they believe women are treated less favourably in terms of salary (39 per cent).
Salary and Promotions
The majority of women in the MENA region fall into the US$200-2,000 income per month range (60 per cent), 21 per cent of whom earn between US$200-500 per month. In the UAE, the share of respondents in the $200-2,000 bracket falls to 52 per cent, 24 per cent having an income between US$2001-4000. There is a regional sentiment that men receive more pay than women (43 per cent), which is echoed by 52 per cent of UAE respondents.
Nearly half (49 per cent) of women working in mixed gender environments around the region believe that their chances of being promoted depend entirely on their performance, and not on gender, though 34 per cent believe that women have a lower chance of getting promoted than men do. The same applies to the UAE, with 49 per cent claiming the former, and 37 per cent stating the latter to be true.
Hiring and Appreciation at Work
In terms of treatment, 51 per cent of respondents working in mixed gender environments believe that men and women are treated equally in their workplace, though 59 per cent state that some employees get preferential or better treatment than others. In the UAE: 61 per cent think that some employees in their workplace are better treated than others, but 49 per cent agree that men and women are treated equally.
In terms of appreciation, the majority (61 per cent) of MENA women working in mixed gender workplaces believe that recognition and rewards are handed out based on performance, and regardless of gender. Nevertheless, 22 per cent believe that men get more appreciation than women employees.
Similarly, 56 per cent of respondents around the region state that job offers are made based on experience and qualifications, with gender playing no role. 63 per cent of women in the UAE believe this to be the case.
Equality Compared to Western Countries
The majority of women around the region (45 per cent) believe that working women in their country have, to some extent, reached the same level of workplace equality as women in Western countries, while 22 per cent believe this to be the case to a large extent.
UAE thinking is in line with this, as a total of 71 per cent agree that equality is on par, either to some (48 per cent) or a large extent (23 per cent), with Western workplaces. Despite that sentiment, women in the UAE believe that the challenges they face in the workplace are less opportunity for job promotions (55 per cent); a stressful and demanding work environment (53 per cent), and a lack or insufficiency of job training and coaching (40 per cent). Their top three reasons for wanting to change jobs are better salary (71 per cent), better benefits (excluding salary) (42 per cent), and more opportunities for career advancement (28 per cent).
The most common company benefits enjoyed by women in the UAE are personal health insurance (55 per cent), housing allowance (41 per cent) and company transport or transport allowance (40 per cent). 67 per cent of women working in mixed gender environments in the UAE state that there are no special benefits offered to women by their current employer. though 21 per cent claim their employer offers some special benefits to women employees.
UAE working women claim that their top three benefits are higher salary (63 per cent), opportunities for long-term career growth (42 per cent), flexible hours (26 per cent) and health insurance for the whole family (25 per cent).
When it comes to maternity leave, 26 per cent of women in the MENA state that they have between 2- 3 months leave. 24 per cent of them receive 1-2 months. In the UAE, a third of women receive 1-2 months of maternity leave, while 17 per cent only receive up to 1 month off. Satisfaction with maternity leave is generally low across the region; 36 per cent of UAE women respondents claim low satisfaction, with 30 per cent stating neutral feelings.
Close to half (47 per cent) of the respondents say that their company offers no paternity leave for new fathers, with 34 per cent of UAE respondents claiming the same.
Challenges and Happiness
Regionally, MENA women find it hard to find good job opportunities (as stated by 60 per cent). They also consider a lack of opportunities to improve their professional skills (46 per cent) and not having enough opportunities to relax or socialise (38 per cent) to be challenges in their life. It’s also considered hard to lead a healthy lifestyle (32 per cent), and many women (30 per cent) do not feel connected enough within their industry.
Similarly, the top three challenges for women in the UAE are struggling to find good job opportunities (65 per cent); lacking opportunities to improve their professional skills (46 per cent), and not having enough opportunities to relax or socialise (41 per cent).
Working women in MENA consider their main sources of happiness to be having a successful career (55 per cent); spending time with their family (32 per cent); and making money (30 per cent). In the UAE, having a successful career (57 per cent) is the top source of happiness, followed by spending time with family (42 per cent), and good personal health (34 per cent).
Work, Marriage and Children
When asked how their career choices have affected their marital life, 35 per cent of married respondents in the MENA region stated it has had no effect at all, versus 33 per cent who claim it has had a positive effect. Women in the UAE believe their career choices have had a positive effect on their marital life (37 per cent), compared to 30 per cent who state it has had no effect, and 22 per cent who believe it has had a negative effect.
Future marriage plans are seen by 35 per cent of MENA women to have an effect to some extent on career choices, though 30 per cent state they have no affect at all. 39 per cent of women in the UAE believe future marriage plans will have an effect to some extent on their career choices, whereas 35 per cent believe they will have no effect at all.
Two in five women with children in MENA claim that their decision to have children has had no effect on their career, though 31 per cent believe their choice has affected their working life to some extent. For 22 per cent of women, it has affected their career to a large extent. In the UAE, 37 per cent of women state having children has had no effect on their career, compared to 29 per cent who believe it has affected their career to some extent, and 26 per cent who claim it has had a large affect.
Across MENA, 43 per cent of women claim to be very familiar with labour laws, with 48 per cent stating they are ‘slightly familiar’ with them. Amongst those who are familiar, 53 per cent say they are fair to some extent, while 21 per cent believe they are fair to a large extent. 54 per cent of working women in the UAE are slightly familiar with local labour laws, while 35 per cent are very familiar; 38 per cent consider them to be fair to some extent, while 33 per cent believe they are fair to a large extent.
The majority (87 per cent) of women participating in this survey work 30 or more hours per week. More than half (53 per cent) are single; 27 per cent are married with children (43 per cent have two children; 33 per cent have one child), and 12 per cent are married without children. Across the MENA region, 41 per cent of respondents have one other person earning a salary in their household; 49 per cent of these women state that the main contribution to their household comes from a man.
Suha Mardelli Haroun, HR Director and Regional Sales Manager, Bayt.com, said: “There are clearly mixed sentiments across the MENA region with regards to women’s opinions of equality in the workplace. Women feel treated equally competent to men across many skill-sets and continues to be narrowing quickly. Employers should take advantage of this skill level to enlarge the talent pool, and perhaps take it as an opportunity to recalibrate on elements such as salary, benefits and advancement opportunities. The fact that these improve the gender equality gap and workplace engagement will go towards positive alignment in levelling out the playing field for all employees.”
Emilene Parry, Senior Research Executive, YouGov, said: “It is encouraging to see that many women in the MENA region believe their country of residence provides the same level of gender equality as many Western countries. As the majority of working respondents in the region put ‘having a successful career’ among their top three sources of happiness, companies should look for ways to appeal to today’s career-oriented women.”
Data for ‘The Bayt.com Status of Working Women in the Middle East’ survey was collected online from October 22-November 20 2014, with 1,543 female respondents aged 18 years and above. Respondents were from the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.