While the UAE is determined to be in the top 25 in the Gender Balance Index by 2021, it has a lot to work on before it can even come close to achieving this goal.
A senior figure has revealed that to achieve greater equality in the workplace, women need to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
One of the biggest challenges highlighted involves the work visa. An expatriate woman with a job in the UAE faces difficulties sponsoring her husband, irregardless of her job.
Currently, a woman sponsored by her husband can work in the UAE. However, a man sponsored by his wife cannot work in the country.
In an interview with Gulf Business, Deepa Shah, Hall & Partners’ CFO for Europe, Asia and the Middle East said this was a huge barrier for career women. She said: “One of the big barriers I’ve noticed with regards to women here is, when you look at the number of expats, women cannot always get sponsorship for their spouses. They can bring their family over and get a great job here, but then it’s really difficult for their spouse to get a job here.”
“If you flip it the other way round, it’s easier for a man to get a visa for his wife,” she added. “So that’s a potential barrier in the UAE. And if you go back to talent pools and getting the best group of people, then it’s something they need to look at. It’s not something you see in Europe or Asia, so it would be great if things could change here.”
Shah also highlighted the difference between the male and female work-life balance, particularly with women who want children. There’s still this tradition and stereotype that the man is the breadwinner and the women stays at home,” she said. “That’s an east and west problem, but I think the mind-set is changing as the generation shifts. I think it will happen, but it takes time.”
According to UAE labour law: “A work permit is issued to those sponsored by their family residency under the following categories: 1) Females over the age of 18. 2) Husband of a female national. 3) Sons and daughters of female nationals.”