This year’s International Women’s day has the theme of gender balance #balanceforbetter. We are fortunate in the UAE that many organisations enjoy a good gender balance and the gender pay gap is seldom seen – in fact 44% of placements we made in 2018 were women and we’ve even started seeing companies requesting female only CVs on senior roles to address their gender balance at a senior/board level. However, none of these roles have been part time – and although there are agencies in the UAE solely aimed at targeting women returning to the work place they do not only focus on part time roles.
It is no secret that there is a huge untapped talent pool in the UAE. Despite new visa laws allowing for part time work (see here for more information) there are many mothers who, after having their families, have not had the opportunity to return to the workplace in the UAE due to the lack of flexibility and part-time roles offered by companies.
So – what is the solution? Part of the problem is an ingrained ‘9 to 5’ mindset which has fashioned jobs to fit in with inherited routines.
“Because we’re so used to employing people full-time, we’re not used to breaking up projects into part-time chunks,” says Jennifer Liston-Smith, a maternity consultant at advice service Myfamilycare. “There’s a culture that unless you’re seen to be at your desk, you’re not doing your job. Some companies have the facilities to offer flexible working (see blog here), however employees, especially in law and finance, are reluctant to ask for it in case it counts against them. Therefore until top jobs are broken down into more manageable components and flexible working is available to everyone, parents are not seen as a privileged group.”
The extra costs of employing two people to perform one job part-time deters many companies, especially in an employer led market like that UAE, but it can benefit all concerned. Not only does the employer get two brains and perspectives for not much more than the price of one, but they can expect a more refreshed and loyal workforce. Flexible hours can reap even more rewards without the extra outlay. “A mother can clock off work for school pick-up then clock back on after the kids’ bedtime and do a teleconference with the US,” says Liston-Smith. “In a global 24/7 market like the UAE, the 9 to 5 model really doesn’t work anymore.’
The International Woman’s Day 2019 website tell us that ‘balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive’