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Feeling a bit short-changed

Feeling a bit short-changed

A century of celebrating women’s day and there’s still a lot to be done when it comes to getting companies to work with women.

March 15, 2011 3:48 by

The 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8 and Mother’s Day is fast approaching (April 3 and May 8, depending on where you’re from). And as is customary articles on women flourish around this time, covering the many facets of womenkind from achievements to inspirations.

More importantly, it sheds light on some of the issues women continue to battle today. The Abu-Dhabi based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), showed unemployment still ranks significantly higher among women in the Middle East, as reported in Emirates 24/7.

Except for Palestine and Libya, unemployment rates among women in the region are much higher than that of men. Women in Yemen top the list at 40.9 percent at the end of 2009—an astronomical number against its men registering a comparatively lower 11.5 percent. Note also that in Jordan, unemployment rate among women is at 24.4 per cent against 10.1 per cent for men.

There have also been recent reports that the number of companies planning to hire more working mothers will drop by a fifth globally this year, according to a Regus study in Gulf News. In the UAE alone, out of the 46 percent who plan to hire this year, only 32 percent intend to hire moms.

To Kipp this sounds a lot like short-changing the multi-tasking, organisation, and efficiency working mothers bring to the table.

Also, while social barriers and lower levels of education are legitimate reasons for some of these numbers, it isn’t a stretch to see that part of the reluctance companies have in hiring women is the lack of policies and flexibilities in place to accommodate them, who are more pressured then men to juggle work and family life.

Kipp has to acknowledge, though, that there are companies that are taking notice. Microsoft Gulf has developed flexible work hours, part-time work and job sharing and is providing mobile devices so employees can work where and when it suits them. Merck Serono offers paternal leave.

Meanwhile, RTA is experimenting for the next three months on flexible hours for its employees. Kipp uses the word ‘flexible’ er, flexibly, here.

It’s interesting to then receive figures from Yahoo! Maktoob Research that looks at women’s role models in the Arab world. Surely women across the region draw inspiration from fellow women.

Well, while Jordan’s Queen Rania (19 percent) and Qatar’s Sheikha Mozah bint Nazzer al-Missned (16 percent) topped the list of women role models, what caught Kipp’s eye is a figure in the last paragraph of that story: 36 per cent of those polled did not pick role models out of the choices that included an actress, a filmmaker, a journalist, a writer and activist.

With more then a third of respondents unable to make a connection with female figureheads, maybe for many the role of female role model is yet to be filled… someone to rally women to push for their causes and to put a continual spotlight on women’s issues beyond March, April and May.

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