Muna Awwadova, 34, is a senior partner at CTPartners, an executive search company in Dubai. She has lived in the UAE for nine years and says she has seen an increase in the number of Arab women in decision-making roles in both public and private sectors.
Q: How many women do you place in boardrooms across the Middle East in a year?
A: We are looking at 10 per cent a year and these are for placements of Arab women who go on to become country heads at organisations. This year, we did 17 placements in the Middle East and one of them was a woman, an Arab, in Egypt. We are working on two more placements in the public sector that include women in Qatar and the UAE. But the number of women in the higher executive management level has increased and, in general, in banking, government, educational institutions and medical services. We are seeing much more demand in telecommunications and media.
Q: Do you see more women wanting to take up roles in the public sector than the private sector?
A: We do not see a preference, but the public sectors are providing opportunities for diversity and are retaining the women.
Q: What are the key factors that would enable more Arab women to take up these roles?
A: It is a long process to have Arab women in the decision-making roles, but we need to have more women who are interested. Also, we need to provide more opportunities to women by rewarding them for their impact on family or work environment. We need to create more job opportunities and encourage human resources in companies to look for more women [candidates], consider them and interview them. We also need to target families, to encourage women so that they are able to support the family and contribute to the household.
Q: Have you seen a glass ceiling when it comes to their salaries compared to men?
A: Salary is still an area that needs to be focused on. There is a differentiation with regards to salaries and packages between women and men at mid to senior management jobs. But at the chief executive level these are quite equal. From our findings in the market place across the Gulf countries, we generally found men being offered compensation packages, including family benefits such as schooling allowances and annual flight entitlements for spouse and children. Women, on the other hand, are offered remuneration packages that do not necessarily cover the full family benefits.
Q: What are the challenges?
A: Family commitment is one of the challenges. The society stereotypes women with being dedicated to children. And there is gender differentiation at the workplace [that] may result in the available internal job opportunities. Men would generally be selected over women based on the nature of the job opportunity, especially when [it] may entail extensive travelling, whether across the region or overseas or extensive long hours doing field work or having continuous changing shifts.