Women rising in Middle East job market

Majority of women feel prospects have improved: survey

Women in the Middle East are increasingly optimistic about their role in the workplace, and increasingly willing to take responsibility for their own professional advancement, according to a new survey.

The survey conducted by online job site Bayt.com polled women in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and several North African countries. It found that while many women believe men enjoy an advantage in the workplace, more refuse to view themselves as helpless victims of the system.

When asked if work prospects have improved in their home countries, the majority of women said yes. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 28 per cent of those surveyed said that things had improved substantially, with 34 per cent saying they had improved to some extent. In Saudi Arabia, those figures were 27 and 39 per cent, respectively. Omani women were the most optimistic, with a combined 81 per cent citing an improvement.

Across the region, a combined 75 per cent of respondents reported that there are women in the senior ranks of their companies. Six per cent, however, stated that "women in our company are not allowed to occupy senior positions." Meanwhile, a significant proportion of women felt that they receive less pay than their male counterparts. While 52 per cent of women in Saudi Arabia and 58 per cent of women in Kuwait expressed such a belief, Bahrain fared better, with only 24 per cent of women claiming a wage imbalance.

"Overall, this survey paints a picture of a region in transition," said Mona Ataya, vice-President of marketing for Bayt.com. "Women in the Middle East are moving into the workplace in larger numbers, and in more senior positions, but some of the old obstacles still exist. What's refreshing about this survey, and surprising, is the number of women who refuse to accept that these obstacles represent an insurmountable barrier to their own progress."

Indeed, while many women interviewed in the survey said they work longer hours than their male counterparts for less pay, they consistently rated themselves favourably alongside men in terms of ambition.

In the UAE, 42 per cent said they were more ambitious than their male colleagues, compared to 10 per cent who said they were less ambitious. In Algeria, a whopping 63 per cent of women claimed to be more ambitious. That number fell to 52 per cent in Lebanon, 45 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 38 per cent in Qatar.

Tellingly, when asked about barriers to career development, 39 per cent of respondents across the region stated that "I am personally responsible for my career, regardless of obstacles." Only 14 per cent answered "Working women in this country or region are not encouraged."

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