x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The women's majlis: finding a balance between work and tradition

Each month, we pose a different question to be debated by a series of female Emirati columnists. This month: What has kept Emirati women from entering the workforce?

Each month, Weekend will pose a different question to be debated on by a series of female Emirati columnists. This month, we ask Ayesha Al Khoori: What has kept Emirati women from entering the workforce?

As developed as we are as a nation, certain traditions will remain the same, even in the many years to come, especially when it comes to working women. Emirati traditions usually entail that a woman is destined to be a housewife, who will look after the household, her husband and her children. Even though these traditions are changing gradually, some families would still prefer the males in the family to take care of the females, so in their point of view, it is unnecessary for the women to try to find a paying job. Families will also not allow their daughters to mingle with other men in the workforce, which may create some challenges, as not many companies are female-dominated.

Children are most probably many mothers' priority, and taking care of them would be more important than a job or a career path, which is why most working women would choose to resign to take care of their children. But if looking for a job, many would require those with flexibility and fewer working hours in order to be able to go home to their children, which many companies do not offer. Some families would also worry that if a mother has a job, she will not be able to raise her children properly as she does not have the time for them. And that is why we find many women in the UAE who, as soon as they become mothers, choose to remain at home with their families.

Because of the rapid rate in which the UAE is developing, it is not surprising that women would want to be a part of many fields and have career choices that their family might disapprove of. People in the media, I believe, face some of the biggest challenges in that respect. Speaking of myself, my mother still finds it hard to accept the fact that I am a journalist. In this job, I spend many hours at the office, sometimes more than the regular working hours, in order to get my assignment done. I am required to talk to many people, both male and female, and I am occasionally asked to speak to important and prominent people. It is still sometimes considered taboo for a woman to speak to strange men, and my mother goes by that rule.

Yet, despite the challenges that an Emirati woman might have faced, or are still in fact facing, I see many women striving in their fields and are now able to compete on different levels. The women have defied the odds, become successful pioneers in various fields and have proved that they are capable of handling careers. So, even if they are still outnumbered by men, working women have established a place in society.

Our generation is stuck between our parents' mentality towards tradition and our desire to move forward and strive. Yes, this only creates obstacles, but with the country's constant development, it is inevitable that the youth will be able to inspire change.

Ayesha Al Khoori is part of a one-year traineeship at The National.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

See all the responses as they come week by week at www.thenational.ae