By Karen Dobson
If you ask a man, the first response would be an overwhelming YES. But the reality that women face daily, not just in the Middle East, but globally we are still a very long way, if ever truly possible, from true gender equality.
The strides that have been taken over the last few decades within the perceived global movement towards gender equality, between male and females, has been rocky and fraught with resistance. The male dominance in society is difficult to shift when it comes to changing the generational norms of holding male superiority above the value a woman can add to the work place, especially in leadership roles. One would be forgiven for believing that there have been great changes within corporate and governmental institutions with regards to the proportion of men and woman in positions of decision and policy making; the reality is sadly farmore sobering.
I have been working in the UAE for over ten years in varying roles in the healthcare practice. The growth and change that I have witnessed for women taking on more prominent positions has been progressive if compared to our global counterparts in the same time frame, which is positive to see and I am optimistic there will more opportunities for Emirates based women in business. However while it is understood that 66% of the UAE’s public sector positions are filled by women; this being largely in education and healthcare vocationsand it is above the global average of just under 50%; it should be noted that only 30% of women are in leadership roles. So, whenever I see a large corporate team photo, I am reminded how far we are from meeting the mark, a lot of suits and a fraction of skirts. Yes I am using this clothing representation tongue and cheek.
Some industries and vocations have historically been ‘female’ roles and these today have tended to stay in this same vein and that is reflective in education and healthcare. However in the leadership roles once again men are favoured which begs the question, ‘If women are good enough for the daily moulding of growing minds and the health of our people, how are we being overlooked in leading from the front?’
All around us there are conversations on how women should speak in a certain way, dress in a certain way and for the most part put up with the chauvinism and often downright offensive comments that are thrown our way, all while juggling homes, children and in most instances their own self-confidence and mindset to break the glass ceiling that seems to just be moved slightly out of reach every step higher we take.
We, as women, have the ability to multitask in ways which are an incredible attribute for Directorships, Executive and leadership roles and these are attributes that advance us in corporate environments especially in the pressures of today’s world.
Ask a man… he will tell you how woman are often put ahead just because they are female. Women have been subjected to this for generations. Ask a woman how we can change this.