x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Empowering women

A survey shows that Emirati women want freedom to choose their own career paths, more freedom than social norms allow. This does not seem like too much to ask.

What women want, that ancient puzzle to the male mind, has now become a little clearer in one particular aspect, at least: one thing female Emiratis want, new survey findings suggest, is more freedom to go into career fields they find attractive. The findings have important implications for the Emiratisation project that is a high priority for the government of the UAE.

The survey findings, reported in The National yesterday, suggest that some young Emirati women are interested in certain private-sector careers, notably in advertising, pharmacy work, and retail sales, but feel deterred from moving into those fields not only by relatively low pay but also by social norms that have made such careers less acceptable than teaching or government work.

Part of this "acceptability gap" belongs to the official doctrine that deems the schoolroom and the Government office more suitable for women.

What women want, in other words, is freedom to choose career paths they see leading to personal fulfilment through interesting work. This does not seem like too much to ask.

The success of Emiratisation for the growing number of well-educated Emirati women will in part depend, this survey suggests, on the evolution of certain old social norms about what work is suitable for them.