x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Cater for concerns of working women

Finding ways to make sure that the workforce welcomes Emirati women, including those from conservative families, may seem challenging. But society owes it to everyone to open the workplace.

The balance between family and career is something that many people, as a parent or a spouse, will have considered. For Emirati women generally, and especially for those from conservative families who are hesitant to work in mixed workplaces, that balance can be even more complicated. But there are things the private sector can do to help.

As The National reported yesterday, the importance of this comes in the context of continuing Emiratisation, and of having citizens play a greater role in the private sector. But it also matters because of globalisation, and the need for Emiratis to preserve their culture and identity in a country with so many other influences. The private sector must accommodate some of these requirements.

Emirati women have an enormous amount to contribute to the private sector. And people from conservative backgrounds not only deserve equal opportunity, but can also bring knowledge and a unique point of view.

Starting at recruitment, private sector companies can actively reach out to women, educating them about opportunities and also listening to their concerns. Within the workplace, companies need to educate their staff in cultural understanding and tolerance.

A large part of this is communication, and making sure that female employees are not only trained, but listened to as well. In part, this is the province of human resources departments, but employees in general, men and women, Emiratis and expatriates, all need to be part of a welcoming workplace.

Undoubtedly this will require flexibility on the part of employees. But as we have seen time and again in higher education, young women in the Emirates are both capable and eager to achieve in the public sphere.

There is also an opportunity for government. Longer maternity leave for mothers - and even paternity leave for fathers - as well as reduced working hours and perhaps subsidised childcare would encourage more women to remain in employment after having children.

Indeed, the very fact of offering this flexibility will mean more women will be encouraged to enter the workforce, knowing that they will not need to leave once they start having a family. Once women and families feel more confident about the private sector, they will be more willing to participate in the workforce, to the benefit of everyone.