Lower pay and long working hours ‘keep women out of the workplace’

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 30 March 2016

Expatriates and nationals face a variety of challenges when finding the right job, says Oxford Strategic Consulting survey

A lack of understanding regarding female aspiration could be hindering women in their attempts to enter the workforce, says a new report from an influential consultancy.

Oxford Strategic Consulting's (OSC) GCC Employment Report 2016 has highlighted some of the challenges women face when entering employment. In the UAE, females said a lack of awareness of jobs, the suitability of roles, and not knowing how to approach organisations were common difficulties preventing them finding work. Saudi women felt that pay was too low, and Omani women said that many jobs required excessive hours.

Although the survey focused on local women, expatriates have also faced challenges in finding work. “I think obstacles for women have been pay-related. Women have traditionally accepted lower salaries due to personal circumstances,” says Marita Harrold, freelance trainer and consultant. “This impacted salaries offered to women as there was a skilled workforce available part time and at lower cost. However, in recent years this has changed and continues to do so.”

Women of all nationalities are present in a professional capacity across the main industries, but the survey revealed that national women are strongly opposed to working in some sectors and they anticipate difficulties in entering and re-entering the workforce.

Jill O'Connell, managing director at Leading Edge Consultancy, feels that confidence is a key for both nationals and foreign women. “Women often possess an innate lack of self-confidence or self-belief, and taking that first step onto the career ladder can be daunting,” she says. “Many do not have the support and encouragement from family that they need to succeed, and may not know where to go in the workplace to find mentors or positive role models.

“For many local women in the UAE, some jobs are deemed ‘unsuitable’ and family pressure can be a deterrent. A lack of female role models across a broad spectrum of industry serves to compound this issue. Many national women are juggling children and caring for elderly parents, and a lack of part-time opportunities means they leave the workplace altogether.”

OSC hopes its survey will spur organisations and recruiters to assist women in overcoming some of the obstacles to employment by providing interview training, CV workshops and flexible and remote working options. This way, they can build self-esteem and avoid feeling left out of the loop.

Prejudice can also be an issue. While O'Connell says she has never felt personally discriminated against for being a woman, she admits that “prejudice towards both men and women in organisations, and stereotyping, is unfortunately all too common. Bullying, or any behaviours that make you feel subjugated, have no place in the modern workplace.”