With every passing year, workplace equality becomes a higher priority for organizations around the world – and those in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are no exception. According to the ‘Working Women in the Middle East and North Africa’ survey by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s number one job site, and global online market research company, YouGov, nearly three in four working women (74%) in Kuwait, who provided an answer, believe that job offers are based entirely on experience and qualifications, regardless of gender. This figure surpasses the regional average and places Kuwait among the top countries when it comes to the ease of finding a job for women.
The survey sought to explore the status of working women in the MENA region by analyzing their perceptions when it comes to equality at work and looking into their motivations for employment, challenges faced at work, as well as career and life ambitions. When asked about workplace equality, the survey revealed that more than eight in 10 respondents who answered this question believe that women in Kuwait have reached the same level of workplace equality as women do in western countries.
Spotlight on Kuwait: Workplace Equality
Regionally, three quarters (75%) of respondents say that there is a mix of men and women working in the same workplace. In Kuwait, this figure is at the regional average. What’s more, the majority (63%) of women in Kuwait say they are comfortable working in a mixed gender environment, with 43% claiming to be extremely comfortable. 33% were neutral in this aspect, while only 4% said they are uncomfortable.
While three-quarters (74%) of respondents working in a mixed-gender environment report having a male manager at their current organization, nearly the same proportion (73%) have no gender-based preference for a manager.
In Kuwait, over two thirds (67%) of respondents report that they work almost an equal number of hours as their male colleagues, 5% believe they work less hours than their male counterparts, and 20% said they work more hours. 8% didn’t provide an answer.
As for women-specific benefits in the workplace, the top five benefits MENA respondents receive from their organizations are personal health insurance (47%), paid maternity leave (40%), company transport/transport allowance (34%), job-related training (32%), and family health insurance (23%). Regionally, more than two thirds (69%) of women say their organization gives them at least one month of official maternity leave. 5% said their maternity leave is less than one month and only 9% said they don’t have an official maternity leave policy. 19% of respondents did not know what the policy is.
With regard to labor laws in their country of residence, almost all (92%) respondents in Kuwait stated they have at least some familiarity with the labor laws in their country, with almost half (48%) claiming to be very familiar. Of those who are familiar with the labor laws in Kuwait, nearly eight in 10 (79%) stated that they are fair to women, at least to some extent. Only 10% think they are not fair while 10% did not provide an answer.
Challenges for Working Women in the MENA
The top three challenges cited by MENA women in their workplace are less opportunity for job promotions (44%), a stressful and demanding work environment (37%), and a lack of or insufficient job training and coaching (30%).
Despite these challenges, a majority of female respondents believe women and men are treated equally in the workplace across a variety of areas, including working hours (68%), training and development (68%), advice and support (60%), recruitment and selection (56%) and benefits (55%).
“It is a given that women play a vital role in the workplace today, and we are glad to see that in the MENA region, organizations are doing much more to accommodate women and promote workplace equality. The results from this year’s ‘Working Women’ survey indicate that organizations in the region are making excellent strides towards achieving total gender balance, even since last year,” said Rania Nseir, Director of Business Development, Bayt.com. “At Bayt.com, we take pride in our extensive equal opportunity practices and the presence of female employees in every level of our organization. We also make it a point to provide the tools and information that support other companies to enhance their hiring practices and that give equal access to our female job seekers, in the region and around the globe.”
Career Outlooks for Women in the MENA
Women’s happiness in the region is largely career-oriented, with having a successful career (49%) emerging as the top driver of happiness. This was followed by good health (42%), traveling and visiting other countries (36%), spending time with their families (34%), and making money (29%).
Moreover, women in the MENA cite financial independence (59%), the ability to support/financially contribute to their households (50%), the opportunity to broaden their perspectives on life (46%), making use of their education (42%), and securing their family and children’s futures (40%) as their top five reasons for seeking employment.
At the same time, women around the world understand the importance of finding balance between their responsibilities at home and at work. In the MENA, more than half (54%) of respondents with children stated that their decision to have children has affected their career, at least to some extent, while 41% said it didn’t affect it at all.
Further, over half (52%) of those surveyed believe their future marriage plans would affect their career choices, at least to some extent, while 29% said it wouldn’t affect it at all and 19% didn’t know. However, the majority of female respondents who are married indicated that their career choices had created either a positive effect (36%) or no effect (34%) on their marital life.
“As the world progresses to bring gender equality to the workplace on a greater scale, perceptions and opinions like those found in this survey provide valuable insight into what is working well and where organizations may need to improve. This survey seeks to better inform organizations in the MENA region and around the world on how they can facilitate workplace equality for their employees – and particularly those that balance their careers with a family and other personal responsibilities,” said Anjali Chhabra, YouGov Associate Research Director.
Data for the ‘Working Women in the Middle East and North Africa’ survey was collected online from October 26 to November 26, 2017, with 4053 female respondents living in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and the UAE.