x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The women's majlis: changing the home/work balance

The factors affecting women, work and family.

What has kept Emirati women from entering the workforce?

What does the term "workforce" mean? It means the people working in a nation, company, industry or on a project. And to work means to do something productive, to become an active member of society. In the past, the role of women in the UAE's workforce was limited to just one job, though nonetheless valuable: in their household.

It was considered to be the best thing a women could do, to stay in the house and nurture her kids, husband and take care of the family's demands and needs. Educational options were very limited, as they catered more for men than for women.

It was more of a traditional viewpoint than it was Islamic; people in the UAE simply believed that the best place for women was to stay in their homes. It stems from Bedouin times, where men spent long hours as hunters, farmers and sometimes warriors, leaving the woman to tend to necessities at home.

This perception is still alive, but it's slowly becoming less widespread with time. Still, many Emirati men don't accept letting their wives or sisters work in a place with a mixed environment of both men and women. It's considered against tradition and, for some families, shameful.

For a few Emirati families, brothers have more dominance over their sisters than even their fathers do, and many consider it more of a shame if their sisters were doing something not in step with tradition. For example, if a brother found out that his sister is working in the same place as that of his friend, he would be embarrassed.

But not every family is as strict. Still, some women prefer to get married and stay in the house, doing the chores and raising her children. The world is changing and life is becoming more and more difficult, so many women fear for their kids and want to stay close to them and raise their kids to grow as good society members and to keep them away from bad examples.

For these women, even if they wanted to be employed, one of the biggest stumbling blocks are long working hours. Women are caregivers by nature; spending most of the day at work makes it very challenging for many women to tend to their families. Some would prefer to resign and stay at home to take care of their kids.

If companies want more women, one good way to attract them is with a nursery. Some jobs offer the service, but many employers in the UAE do not. But studies have shown that when a business offers a nursery for their employees, women were found to take less leave while also becoming more productive.

So, for women to work or not to work in the UAE is something that plants many fears and worries in a woman's mind. The biggest question for many is, how well will she do as a mother and a wife when she gets a job? But sometimes, even she may not have a say in the matter.

Sarah Khamis Al Alawi is the social media editor at The National


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