When it comes to getting more women into the workplace in the UAE, there’s little opposition from the opposite sex, a new study has found.

Research from the University of Sharjah and Hofstra University in the United States shows that on the whole, women are supported by their husbands if they choose to work – although several other factors are stopping them from doing so.

The study, which quizzed 1,500 Emirati and expat households in Dubai, found that 38 per cent of women interviewed were working, 40 per cent were “economically inactive”, 18 per cent were students and 4 per cent were without work.

And the biggest obstacle to employment for women in the region? Finding work-life balance.

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“Our findings go against certain stereotypes,” Dr Rabia Naguib, a co-author of the study, told The National.

“Men in our study revealed themselves to be highly supportive of women at the micro level.”

However finding adequate childcare was keeping women out of the workplace – something the UAE government has announced it is reviewing under its revamp of the country’s maternity law.

“If you offer women flexible working hours, if you offer them nurseries for their children, that would help to solve the problem,” Dr Naguib said.

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The study also found that those interviewed did not view religion as a barrier to employment – although some female entrepreneurs did find certain constraints, such as “mixing with men… to be discouraged”.

Women surveyed also believed – more so than the men interviewed – that they should seek the head of the household’s permission to work.

“Women expressed more support than men for cultural norms that allowed male control and that limited women’s freedom to work,” researchers told The National.

But things could soon change

The Emirates hopes to become one of world’s top 25 countries for gender equality by 2021.

In recent times, the Dubai Women Establishment has been set up, as has the Gender Balance Council, and the government is looking at improving the country’s maternity laws.

The Dubai Women Establishment’s five-year development strategy for 2017-2021 has a focus on getting more females noticed in the workforce.

Key parts of the plan will work on promoting the skills of Emirati women, as well as enhancing their capabilities within the UAE.

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The DWE plan to make more progress on integrating women into the UAE’s developmental process, as well as enhancing their status and leadership.

Al Marri has previously said that “the country’s government believes in the power of women and the role that they can play in society”.

“Our visionary leadership that supports women 100 per cent believes that for a society to be productive, it has to utilise the talents and capabilities of women who represent around half of the UAE population.”

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