ABU DHABI // Women say they are the main beneficiaries of Emiratisation.
Dr Fauzia Jabeen, a researcher at Abu Dhabi University, asked 200 undergraduate and postgraduate students their opinion on the success of the push to get nationals into the workplace.
Four in five women, 78 per cent of those interviewed, said Emiratisation had helped them in their careers. Only two-thirds – 66 per cent – of men felt the same way.
"Women consider Emiratisation has been more helpful," said Dr Jabeen. "They are getting more jobs and good sponsorships."
Age played a factor in the findings. Seventy-four per cent of students under 30 said Emiratisation was a positive thing, compared with 58 per cent of those older than 30.
Dr Jabeen worked alongside two other researchers – Dr Marios Katsioloudes, professor of management at Qatar University, and Dr Sai Geeta Kukunuru, of Abu Dhabi University's Al Ain campus.
They found that while parents were comfortable with their daughters going to university, they were less convinced they should then get a job.
"Women in the UAE live in an Islamic, patriarchal society," said Dr Jabeen. "While most parents support their daughters' education, there remains the view that working could interfere with mothers training a daughter in traditional tasks. Balancing work life with this will be tough."
But Emiratisation is bringing women greater equality and independence. "They don't want to rely on their husbands," Dr Jabeen said.
Students who were not already working ranked salary as their top concern, while those who did work put career progression first.
Almost all the women – 94 per cent – saw education as a way into the workplace at a level at which they would be adequately rewarded.
They were also aware that merely being Emirati did not mean they would secure a good job.
"They realise Emiratisation will only work for them if they're qualified," Dr Jabeen said. "They can't utilise the Emirati factor because there is competition among the Emiratis themselves."
Mariam Saleh Al Braiki, 29, was one of the students who took part in the research. She was studying for a master's in engineering management while working as an assistant IT analyst at Gasco.
"Emiratisation is showing that education alone is not enough," she said. "Many locals have degrees but we need more qualifications, more experience."
Ms Al Braiki believes Emiratisation has transformed women's place in society.
"Ten years ago there was nothing like this," she said. "The leaders are telling society that women are equal, if not more. There are so many women in leadership roles within government, in the FNC. It's sending out a message."
It has also helped cut unemployment. "It's not been solved fully but it's better than before," she added.
Hamza Zaouali, the founder of IRIS Executives and GovJobs.ae, a recruitment agency for Emiratis, said bodies such as the Tawteen Council, which helps Emiratis find Government jobs, have helped women enormously.
"Since these organisations are usually offering advantageous working hours, unemployed female Emiratis – who were not able to find work due to distance or working hours that conflict with family responsibilities – have been able to benefit greatly from the effort of the Tawteen Council," Mr Zaouali said. "Emirati men are not constrained by these challenges, so their reaction to Emiratisation is obviously felt slightly differently."
Mariam Al Kaabi, who graduated from the University of Sharjah last year, said there were more opportunities for women to work and study.
"Ten years ago there weren't so many women working or doing post-graduate degrees," said Ms Al Kaabi, a researcher at the Sharjah Research Academy."There are more opportunities now and encouragement financially. It has made women more self-confident."
Moza Al Shamsi, 22, graduated last year and has been trying to set up her own business. She was sponsored while studying by a leadership programme for Emiratis run by Zabeel, a Dubai investment company.
She said the scheme , which included access to workshops, seminars and conferences, helped prepare people for the workplace.
"For Emiratis with good grades, it's not hard to get study scholarships," she said. "But this alone doesn't solve the problem of getting jobs."