Female Jobs in the middle east (and historically in other regions of the world) have always been a sign of economic and social revolution. The introduction of the female human capital into the working job market, especially within emerging markets, usually dynamically and rapidly diversifies both the talent pool and the active industries within the market.
Driven more by passion rather than by practicality, the presence of active and enabled females in female jobs and positions, usually creates business opportunities and business development in different sectors of industry besides the traditional banking and manufacturing industries.
I don’t want to make this an argument about the differences or similarities between the sexes in their career capacities, especially since I don’t believe in applying broad generalizations to specific individual situations (such as strictly hiring women for public relations roles because they have better communication skills according to research). I believe that each job position, and each job role within the organization needs the best man or woman in it despite the gender, depending on who is most capable at this specific task, from the pool of candidates available.
My goal here however, is to shed some light on some of the hindrances facing female workers and female jobs in general in order to shift the focus on a procedural enablement and facilitation of job market development. Most of the information below comes from my personal insight, being a Saudi citizen, observing the hurdles faced by females in my family in their quest for an equal and comfortable career opportunity.
This can also be used as a template or a recipe for making a work environment female friendly. By avoiding each of the following hindrances, you can create a work environment that is fair, comfortable, and supportive to your female human resources which can reduce the overall tension in the workplace and open up the potential for synergistic behaviour.
1- Difficulty of acquisition
The first difficulty facing female workers is the difficulty of acquisition. It is difficult for companies that have never before hired women, to properly seek out, spread the word, attract, interview and hire female workers. It is also difficult for females to find any information about potential openings or female-ready companies. Usually we find that this kind of information travels virally through SMS, text messaging, and word of mouth. This makes it possible for people close to an in-group to find potential opportunities but it eliminates a whole wealth of candidates that do not socially intersect with the aforementioned social group.
Having a female focused job marketing channel, separate from traditional job listings, career development program marketing, and typical induction programs will help better reach the target audience, with a more relevant message.
The hiring manager should think of female workers as a niche, and engage that niche directly in the conversation to be able to reach them effectively to attract and hire them.
2- Unequal payscales
In unregulated industries, such as the private business sector, you will find female workers willing to in unattractive, laborious jobs, sometimes at lower pay than their male counterparts. The reason for this acceptance might be that they have less opportunities available for them, they might not be as interested in working for money, as they are interested in contributing to society and having something of value to spend their time in (especially if they are not the family’s primary earner), and they have a more pragmatic approach to work devoid from entitlement because they are still used to working their way for what they want as a symptom of social change.
The hiring manger should ensure that pay scales are fair and comparable between male and female workers so long as their job descriptions are the same. In the end the goal is to fill the vacancy with the BEST candidate, be it a guy or a girl, and so the definition, expectations, and rewards for doing that job should be the same, no matter who does it.
A big problem faced by many female career women, is that in certain countries where it is difficult for them to work in the first place, it is equally as difficult, if not prohibited for them to drive our travel freely without proper escort. This means that women that are able to overcome the first two hurdles, and that have signed a contract for a job with an employer at a reasonable wage, may find difficulty in being able to show up to work, everyday, and on time, simply because they do not directly control their means of transportation and are at the mercy of another individual.
Two possible solutions that we see for this kind of problem are:
A- Carpooling: organically, groups of women from the organization arrange a carpool with with redundancy so that no matter what comes up, one of the group will always be able to source their driver, pick-up her co-workers, and have them all arrive to work on time.
B- In certain situations involving larger employers with a large population of female workers (such as larger factories or assembly lines) the employer may find it more effective and attractive to set-up a transport option, for example to drive the female workers from a meeting point down-town to the worksite, or the office head quarter.
Having the employer manage transportation is also attractive for jobs where the employees will typically need access to clients in the field, such as support jobs, sales trips, pre-sales presentations, and general marketing and promotion activities at trade shows, fairs, and mixers.
Another solution to the logistics of the situation is mentioned below.
4- Non flexible work hour arrangements
Research has shown time and time again, that employees that have more freedom and autonomy over their working hours (such as being required to put in 40 hours of work a week total, rather than being expected to be at the office exactly from 9 to 5 everyday) have higher productivity levels and higher job appreciation.
Although this case applies to all employees, male and female alike, it is notable that given additional concerns female employees have due to the logistics of arriving to work, and the limitations on having transport available to leave work, then an offset work schedule might be more in line with their travel arrangements. Furthermore, extra-carricular commitments such as children, nursing, schooling…etc may require certain hours of the work day where one of the working parents (be it the mother or the father) needs to leave work for a few hours.
Having a work day that is a hybrid of fixed hours (for example between 11:00am and 1:00pm) for meetings and collaborative work and autonomous hours (25 to 30 hours a week to be managed at the discretion of the employee himself/herself) improves productivity, job satisfaction, and creates more opportunity for female workers to enter the workforce with reduced conflict and hindrances.
5- Comfortable working environment and office facilities
A lot of times when we think about work, we think about office space, cubicles, computers, and all the equipment people need to do their work. More important than these items, are the equipment, spaces, and facilities that our workers need when they are taking time off from work. Having proper facilities, including a female lounge, female on-call rooms for female nurses and doctors, female specific bathrooms and female specific prayer rooms gives the women in the workplace everything that they need to have a complete, productive, and wholesome workday.
This problem is usually most prevalent just as a company decides to start hiring their first female employees. Suddenly, they are faced with decisions of weather to go for ‘unisex’ facilities by ignoring the needs of their female employees, and backing their decisions up with the justification that they don’t need to provide ‘duplicate’ facilities for a minority of their workforce, or investing in facilities that they know will be underutilized for a long time until their female workforce grows to become a significant portion of their population.
In this situation it pays to pre-empt these impromptu decisions, by facilitating the workplace BEFORE hiring your female employees as they deserve equal and comfortable working conditions as their male counterparts.
6- Praise and reward
In certain cultures, there is a high level of separation or segregation between male and female workers and males and females in the general public. This sometimes makes it difficult to present successful female workers with professional awards in public venues such as seminars and gatherings as the audience or promoters are pre-dominantly male. Sometimes a male representative is chosen to receive the award on behalf of his female colleague, other times, the award is cancelled altogether and re-directed to a less deserving male co-worker in order to avoid making any extra arrangements for the deserving employee to accept her award. This is not only ridiculous but also immoral, and eventually will not only create resentment from the female workforce but also destroy morale and reduce levels of motivation.
The equity theory of motivation tells us that misdirected benefits negatively affect both the recipient and the denied as not getting what you deserve and getting that which you don’t deserve are both in-equitable compensations which reduce employee trust in the corporation, reduce motivation and hamper productivity.
7- Power struggles
It is difficult, in general, for senior employees or established employees to work with or work under a younger employee, even if that employee were more specialized and capable on this specific task or project. Similarly, it is difficult for employees of different sexes, to work with our under employees of the opposite sex, even if that employee were more specialized and capable on this specific task or project.
If you think about it, a high flying female employee coming into a predominantly male workplace may face a lot of difficulties and opposition in getting any of her ideas or initiatives implemented. What is even worse, is that the existing male employees may activate a defensive male culture such as creating an environment that is highly masculine including topics that don’t interest women such as talking about sports or sharing pseudo sexual jokes, and other forms of communication that are specifically exclusive to the female workers to alienate them from the general group and diminish their power to activate, motivate and engage the group.
As a hiring manager or a senior person in your organization, it is your job to be aware that the very masculine and seemly harmless comradeship in the workplace may in fact be a form of in-group, out-group psychological play, and to try and diffuse these attitudes and create a level playing field where the best ideas and the best workers are given the opportunity to present and execute these initiatives for the benefit of the organization.
It is very important, create a level playing field where the best ideas and the best workers are given the opportunity to present and execute these initiatives for the benefit of the organization. One common mistake that contradicts this level playing field, is to typecast employees by saying things like ‘women are better at creative tasks, while men are better leaders’.
Saying these things and acting on them can be very damaging to the potential output of the organization as the right way to look at your human capital, is to look for the best EMPLOYEE for a specific task, regardless of the weather that employee is male or female.
Creativity can come from an artistic background, it can come from a deep understand of the problem or product, it can come from unrelated experience that happens to come back to us during a brain storming session, it can come from inspiration, and all of these sources are not in any way monopolized by one sex or the other.
Leadership can come from motivation, strong vision, great communication, facilitation of great progress by removing mental and physical barriers to success, enablement, group energization, and more, and all of these actions or concepts are not in any way monopolized by one sex or the other.
Always look to find the best candidate for the task, project or job and always make sure that your employees and their direct superiors are not pidgin-holing their female workers into low-tech roles, or keeping them out of leadership positions based on heresy that is unrelated to the specific candidate’s capabilities.
9- Reaching further for opportunities
Male employees in the organization have a lot of social leverage. Let elaborate on social leverage; many business decisions take place outside of the office during casual conversations between a manager and his close group of employees over lunch, during an informal outing at the ranch, or over drinks after hours. Female workers, although present and engaged in important decisions within the confines of the office, will not be available during these extra-office decisions due to the traditional segregation of the sexes during off hours.
As the saying goes ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and the conversation between the managers and their close group outside of the office organically leads to awards, benefits, promotions, and special projects being handed over to the guys, and away from the female workers simply because they are not there. This is not necessarily a malicious process, but rather an organic result of proximity.
This results in the commonly known fact that women in the workforce have to work harder and more diligently for their promotions and for advancement opportunities at work, compared to their male counterparts.
As a hiring manager or a leader in your organization, you should ensure that every qualified candidate is fairly considered for any promotions or vacancies, rather than simply going by the recommendations of your division or department managers. This ensures that no organic or malicious favouritism is taking place and that the most qualified people are the ones rising the ranks which gives great long term results both for the employee’s job satisfaction as well as the organization’s performance.
To summarize, hiring females in the workplace requires extra attention to equality, work dynamics, corporate culture, appropriation of benefits and achievements, and a certain degree of flexibility and understanding. In return, opening up your organization for female jobs increases the diversity of the workplace, improves dialogue, add different points of view and perspectives to the discussion, and takes advantage of the immense wealth of highly qualified female graduates that are eager to enter the work force and deliver value and a experience a sense of self worth through positive contribution to society.