JEDDAH – Working women in the region are motivated professionally mostly by monetary prospects, and that 65 percent of them believe that women in mixed gender workplaces receive no special benefits, a recent "Women in the MENA Workplace 2012" survey conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s leading job site, and YouGov, a research and consulting organization, revealed.
When asked to select any option (or several options) that applies to them when asked about reasons for employment, the majority of women (57 percent) chose "gain financial independence". This is especially true in Saudi Arabia, where 65 percent of women - the highest in the region - stated this as their main objective, as did most Arab women residing in the GCC (58 percent) and Western women (57 percent).
Meanwhile, six out of 10 Arab women residing in the GCC also chose to work in order to broaden their perspectives in life, while most Asian women (63 percent) seek to financially support their household.
Women who are 25 or below are also strongly motivated to put their education to good use, while those in the 36-45 age bracket want to secure their children’s future.
When looking for a job, MENA women take the following into consideration, in order of importance: salary (59 percent), opportunities for long-term career growth (31 percent) and health insurance for their whole family (28 percent). Retirement benefits are important to working women aged 46 and above.
"Women across the MENA region are breaking stereotypes and embracing their careers more wholeheartedly than ever before. There is a desire for equality and it seems that, for the most part, this desire is being met by employers," said Lama Ataya, Bayt.com. "The results of this survey fall in line with Bayt.com’s experience with the MENA workplace, and with our analysis of employee and employer habits and aspirations to present a clear picture of the regional employment market."
Seven out of 10 women (69 percent) are comfortable with working in mixed gender environments, which 74 percent of all survey respondents work in. In Saudi Arabia, 37 percent of women work in mixed workplaces; however, they are separated from men.
The survey showed that there are more female managers/bosses in Lebanon (28 percent), Tunisia (24 percent) and UAE (20 percent) in comparison to other countries, though only 19 percent of respondents across the region claim to report to a woman. In general, while the majority (68 percent) have no preference for the gender of their superior, women (especially in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) prefer to work for a male boss (as per 28 percent of the region’s respondents) as opposed to a female one (4 percent).
Maternity leave for most women is between one to three months (22 percent claim one to two months, 28 percent claim two to three months), though nearly a quarter (23 percent) do not know what their company’s allotted time is. Only 13 percent of women are highly satisfied with their maternity leave and benefits, with 41 percent claiming low satisfaction.
"It is encouraging to find that so many women are comfortable working in mixed gender environments, which is perhaps a nod to a more Westernised influence over regional society," said Sundip Chahal, CEO YouGov. "The low satisfaction with maternity leave suggests that there is room for this benefit to be expanded upon for employers looking to increase their appeal to existing female employees and job seekers."
In terms of benefits, the most commonly received is personal health insurance (51 percent), followed by paid maternity leave (38 percent); company transport or transport allowance (28 percent); job-related training (28 percent) and family health insurance (19 percent).
Almost half of the surveyed women (44 percent) said fewer opportunities for job promotions are the biggest challenge they face in their work. Stressful and demanding work environments follow, according to 38 percent, while a third (33 percent) state that lack of flexible working timings, limited opportunities to perform and insufficient job training and coaching are equally demanding.
When it comes to working hours, 58 percent of women claim to put in as many as their male colleagues, while 22 percent claim to work even more.
Sentiments are equally divided in terms of whether women feel they receive equal or less pay than men working within their company (an evenly-split 41 percent both ways), with women in Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia feeling that they receive less. Four out of ten (40 percent) of the region’s working women believe that their chances for promotion are dependent more upon their performance than their gender, however, 31 percent believe that they are at a disadvantage in this respect because they are female.
More than half (56 percent) of women believe that they are treated equally to their male counterparts in the workplace, and 65 percent state that there are no special benefits for female employees within their company. In Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE however, women feel that men are given preferential treatment.
Of the women who completed the survey, almost a third (30 percent) claim that their career choices have had a positive impact on their marital life. Six out of 10 (57 percent) women state that their decision to have children has affected their career, especially for those respondents who are 35 years old or younger. – SG