ABU DHABI // As an Emirati mother of four and full-time employee, Zainab Abdulameer often finds herself putting in extra hours at work while trying to respond to the demands of her family.
And although Ms Abdulameer prides herself in her ability to handle several tasks at once, there have been a few times she has almost hit the panic button.
This is not unusual for many women who work in the private sector.
For Mariam al Rumeithi, an Emirati, working in the private sector means long working hours, a lower income and little time to herself - so she opted for a public-sector job.
"When you put it all together, it's a lot of sacrifice, especially if you have a family at home," said Ms al Rumeithi, a commercial procurement officer at the National Drilling Company (NDC).
But Ms Abdulameer, the head of employee relations at Emirates Advanced Investment, finds the challenges worthwhile. "When working in the private sector you have an opportunity to learn, grow and develop very quickly," she said.
Experts say to succeed in a demanding work environment, a woman must demonstrate a psychological edge that enables her to be consistent, confident, focused and determined in high-pressure situations.
In other words, she must be mentally tough.
A study by Knowledge Point Performance Development and Assessment (KPPDA) surveyed 30 Emirati women from the private sector and 30 from the public sector.
Their managers, directors and human resources executives were interviewed to provide a snapshot of how mental toughness varies in Emirati women from each sector.
Ginette Collin, the performance development manager at KPPDA, explained mental toughness takes into account commitment, emotional and life control, ability to face challenges, and confidence.
Women who took part in the survey were also required to take the MTQ48 test, a tool approved by the British Psychological Society that measures the mental toughness of individuals on a scale of one to 10.
Overall, women in the private sector scored nearly 30 per cent higher than those in the public sector.
The largest gap was in commitment, where private-sector participants scored 38 per cent higher than those in the public sector.
"Those who score low are more likely to give up easily, while those who score higher are motivated to achieve," Ms Collin said. "It's important to remember that a commitment includes fulfilling a promise made to yourself as well as to others."
The second-biggest differences were confidence and the ability to cope with challenge, where women in the private sector scored 24 per cent higher in both categories.
Mohammed Hareb al Ketbi, the head of UAE intake human resources at NDC, backed the findings: "[Private sector] employees are always up for a challenge and they are more confident. They are better public speakers and can deliver quality work.
"In the public sector there isn't as much exposure for women. The bureaucracy is set and can be limited."
A workshop was held last week by the Abu Dhabi International Centre for Organisational Excellence aimed at teaching women techniques for battling work stress, which include ridding the office of distractions and, most important, positive thinking.
Amreen Ismail, from Pakistan, attributed the high levels of stress often encountered by women to an inability to say no.
"Women often over-commit," Ms Ismail said. "And that is why they suddenly find themselves overloaded with work and the stress causes them to lose control."
The women also agreed emotional control was their most significant challenge. Maria Abdeen, from Jordan, said a woman's need to express her emotions was "in her nature".
"But workshops like this can teach women how to better manage their emotions," Ms Abdeen said.
Ms Collinsaid mental toughness testing and development could be introduced to secondary schools.