05/23/2009 06:46 PM | By Eman Mohammed, Abu Dhabi Deputy Editor
Abu Dhabi The high educational achievements of Emirati women are not reflected in the workplace, a specialist says.
"Although 75 per cent of all UAE local university students are women, only 14.7 per cent of Emirati women were reported to be in full-time employment," said Dr Katty Marmenout, Research Fellow for Women and Leadership Initiative in the Middle East, in a lecture organised by the General Woman Union and INSEAD centre for executive education and research in Abu Dhabi recently.
Marmenout showcased latest research findings on working women in the Middle East and implications for leadership development in the region under the title "Working Women in the Arab World: Careers, Choices and Constraints".
Dr Marmenout led a team of researchers through their studies, inclduing interviewing women in the UAE. She said "While educational attainment, particularly in the GCC, is high and even surpassing countries such as the US and Switzerland, Middle Eastern countries consistently lag behind with respect to economic participation and opportunities for women."
According to Dr. Marmenout, "There may be many reasons why women are less represented in the workplace in this region but gender stereotyping is not one of them."
The research shows that a male bias against having or employing a female manager is present but is not extremely strong - indeed, it is significantly lower than China, Turkey and Germany.
Moreover, women themselves appear to perceive men as being more suited to managerial positions, rather than their own sex; significantly, more so than women in Japan or Germany.
Findings indicate that Middle Eastern women working in the UAE have challenges that are largely similar to their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, they also seem to face challenges that are particular to the region, such as the pressure to raise a large family, and the need to contribute financially to the household while not overshadowing their husband's contribution to the household. The data collected also showed some interesting patterns of coping mechanisms, such as further education, public sector employment and contemplating the option of self-employment.
Dr Marmenout explained challenges facing Emirati women in "having very few role models to show how to deal with the new ways of working is a challenging thing; women would like to continue to work and in the same time they want to care for the family.
"Maintaining modesty is another challenge particular for women in the region; woman can do many different things at work and in public and at the same time have to be careful not to overshadow other members of the family."
There are number of interesting policies that are in place and Emirati women have benefited from specially designed education Marmenout thinks "the late Shaikh Zayed's influence in pitting in place a structure for female education had helped women a lot and they are taking the advantage of it now".
Do you feel that the workplace does not focus on your educational achievements? What can be done to encourage Emirati women to excel at the workplace?