x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Home comforts and job problems

What has kept Emirati women from entering the workforce?

Each month, Weekend will pose a different question to be debated by a series of female Emirati columnists. This month, we ask Noora AlMulla:

What has kept Emirati women from entering the workforce?

When I was posed this question, I thought I would speak about my own experience, and those who are around me. Do I represent the majority of Emirati women? Maybe, maybe not. Everyone is an individual.

The first reason that struck me was a cultural one: the comfort and expectations of being at home. But the second is, it's just not that easy to find a job.

I grew up witnessing a typical wife's life. I saw her responsibilities as taking care of the household, making sure the family is well fed and that everything around the house is spotless.

But when women take on these responsibilities, yet the man remains the decision maker, something is taken away. Don't get me wrong: yes, women are treated like queens and princesses in material terms, but that, like everything in life, comes with a price. And the price is a knock to women's self-confidence.

Women who grow up like this and then enter the workforce really feel the discomfort of being away from home. Home is their reality. At home, everyone has a pre-assigned role, situations do not call for statements of opinion and everything is taken care of. Entering the workforce could thus be a huge upheaval for some.

Why would someone leave their comfort zone and go through a time of self-exploration at an age where they should have had found themselves already and are striving to be who they always wanted to be?

Regardless of whether a woman is ready or not, though, the reality is it's just not that easy to get a job. There seems to be a reigning perception that it's easy for Emiratis to find a job. Well, this isn't the case, necessarily. I started applying for jobs while I was still at university, as I wanted to start working as soon as possible. After being rejected from every job within my field that I applied for, I accepted defeat and started applying for any job I could find. I must have applied to every recruitment agency in the UAE, and even with the help of university behind me, I had no luck. And I was not alone in this boat - my friends were going through the same thing. We were fresh graduates with no experience, in competition with expats who had not only previous job experience but also more life experience. Who would you choose if you were an employer? I will give you a hint: it wasn't me.

There are, of course, many factors contributing to what has kept Emirati women from entering the workforce: the husband who is willing to take care of everything in order that his wife need not work. And, of course, the cases of strict parents who refuse to let their daughters face the real world.

But despite these cultural differences, there are many women who are willing, wanting and needing a job who aren't finding one because of the simple fact that there are many people out there with much more impressive resumes.

Noora AlMulla is a 24-year-old graduate currently employed on a management training course.