Around 75 per cent of working women in the GCC say that they are not treated equally in their workplaces, which hampers their prospects to advance in their careers as quickly as men, a new study has shown.
According to a report compiled by non-profit group Pearl Initiative, about 80 per cent of working women in the GCC feel they are disadvantaged at work for simply being a woman.
The study, which polled more than 600 businesswomen in the GCC, noted that achieving a work-life balance was the biggest challenge that female workers faced.
“Countries in the GCC have made significant strides in recent years by increasing the participation of women in tertiary education and in the workforce,” said Imelda Dunlop, executive director, Pearl Initiative.
“Yet the number of women advancing to senior executive and board levels within organisations in the GCC remains low.”
But despite the hurdles they face, the majority of working women in the region are quite ambitious, the survey said.
Around 50 per cent of women in the GCC, who were surveyed by Pearl Initiative, said that they were aiming to have a senior or a board level position within the next seven years.
The report also puts forth a number of suggestions to the Gulf fimes including improving work-life balance, adopting HR policies that will ensure equality and investing in mentorship for women to increase female participation in workplaces.
Gulf countries, which previously relied on a male dominated workforce, are struggling to accommodate the large number of female graduates that are coming into the market.
Women who are currently integrated into the workforce also face challenges such as unequal pay and treatment when compared to their male counterparts.
A recent study by Bayt.com revealed that up to 43 per cent of working women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region believe they are paid less than their male counterparts.
Overall, women also believe they are treated less favourably when it comes to benefits (27 per cent for less favourably, 49 per cent for equal treatment) and career progression opportunities (33 per cent feel women are discriminated against; 42 per cent state opportunities are equal), Bayt said.
But many Arab governments are taking steps to mitigate gender imbalance and include women in economic development.
The UAE, which has a large number of female graduates, recently formed a Gender Balance Council to ensure better integration of women into government departments.
Slightly conservative countries like Saudi Arabia have been building a number of women-only industrial cities- a step aimed at supporting female entrepreneurs and workers in a strictly segregated community.