Why UAE must make it easy for women to sponsor their spouses - Gulf Business
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Why UAE must make it easy for women to sponsor their spouses

Why UAE must make it easy for women to sponsor their spouses

Expatriate women in the UAE face greater workplace challenges than their male counterparts, says senior exec

Expatriate women in the United Arab Emirates face greater workplace challenges than their male counterparts due to difficulties sponsoring their husbands, a senior figure has claimed.

Research agency Hall & Partners’ chief financial officer for Europe and Asia plus the Middle East, Deepa Shah, said one of the biggest barriers for women rising up the career ladder in the emirates was bringing a spouse over with them, while men were less likely to face the same hurdle.

Shah added that expectations of a work-life family balance put extra pressure on women when applying for top roles, in contrast to their male peers.

Speaking to Gulf Business, 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. 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.”

She added: “There’s still this tradition and stereotype that the man is the breadwinner and the women stays at home. 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.”

Founded in London in 1991, H&P specialises in brand and communication research covering areas including consumer services, business-to-business and e-brands, among others.

The company was bought by global media network Omnicom in 2003 and now has offices in the United States, Australia, Singapore, Tokyo and Delhi, as well as its Middle East hub in Dubai Media City.

Originally from London, Shah joined H&P in 1999 in a junior role and rose up to the position of CFO in 2014.

She said: “I joined 17 years ago when it was just 30 people – it was a tiny company – and I was given some great opportunities, but also worked very hard and really pushed myself forward. I am not afraid of putting my hand up and saying ‘I can do that’ and I always have done that and will continue to do so.”


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