x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Private firms missing out on women

Although Emirati women surpass Emirati men in job assessments, private companies are wary about recruiting them.

In almost every sector, Emirati women tend to be more engaged and excited about their careers than men, employment professionals say. Nevertheless, private companies are wary about recruiting them, apparently fearing the loss of time and resources if they give up their careers in favour of family life. Dr Natasha Ridge, a research fellow with the Dubai School of Government, said the steady job performance of Emirati women - who make up 60 per cent of the public sector workforce - stands in stark contrast to the high drop-out rates of men.

"What seems to be happening is that males are being employed, but perhaps there are females who are more qualified," said Dr Ridge, noting the paucity of women in the workforce. Another irony is that women tend to emerge from the education system better prepared for work. According to 2005 government figures, 77 per cent of Emirati women went to federal universities. Last year, just 38 per cent of students in those institutions were men. There were no figures for men who were studying abroad.

Emirati women participated in politics, science and technology at a rate on a par with women in the US, Dr Ridge said, while males were more likely to drop out of school and take jobs in the army or police. "There is more competition in the job market for women," Dr Ridge said. "Zayed University, Higher Colleges of Technology, they are graduating a lot of women locally - more so than men." Men with degrees are also not as likely to face the same level of competition among their peers. "It's a new thing for women to be working outside the home," Dr Ridge said. "It offers opportunities, independence, income."

A higher education was also often seen as a way to attract a better husband, she said. As a result, some of the country's most dedicated and promising workers are women. According to Ian Giulianotti, the director of Nadia Recruitment and Training, however, businesses remained reluctant to hire them. "Women are extremely articulate, very passionate and they want careers, but then when they get married they may have to leave work," he said. "There is a pool of certified Emirati females, but for companies it's a short-term investment."

Dr Ridge disagreed, saying one aspect of Emirati culture probably encouraged women to keep their jobs after marriage - according to tradition, it is the man's responsibility to finance the home, and any income a woman generates is hers to keep. The perception that an Emirati woman would leave the workplace after marriage was, she said, "a big stereotype". "There's no evidence for it," said Dr Ridge. "That's the worldwide excuse for not hiring or not promoting women."