A blog exploring how technology can help meet the UAE’s goals for female participation in the workforce – and how managers can contribute
The UAE is changing. Even faster than the GCC overall. But looking at their progress on a global scale, we’ve still got some catching up to do. With sectors from finance to tourism now a major part of the regional economy, organisations like the Gender Balance Council are looking to take the region to the next level – with the goal of increasing female representation in the workforce.
The UAE has a genuine business need for more – and more qualified – workers.
And if you hire or manage people, you’re among those capable of making a difference. Not because you’re required to by law, or you want to show a diverse face to the world, but simply because it makes more business sense.
How can you make the GBC’s goal work for you? By leveraging another positive force: technology.
The confluence of greater technology know-how, computing power, and higher bandwidth does more than improve products and services, boost competitiveness, and raise productivity. It lets us bring people together to work as one team, regardless of distance or differences. That’s an opportunity for all UAE business owners. And riding the trend will give you competitive advantage in the years ahead.
In this article, we’ll show how a more diverse workforce is great for business – as the Gender Balance Council’s research proves – and how those in positions of responsibility can give their businesses a boost by taking up the challenge.
Look at remote working as a global trend worth adopting…
Surveys from all over the world suggest there’s an excellent financial case for increasing diversity with the help of technology.
Call centre workers got through 13% more calls when they were based outside the office; and people who work on creative projects like design and programming have been proven to be 20% more productive when working from home. Around half of US employees work from home at least part of the time. So it’s not simply a case of working with the grain of people’s lives: it has a concrete effect on the bottom line.
Regarding the impact of remote working technologies on recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce, this analysis of the Clyde & Co 2016 workplace report declared: “technology will likely enhance these forms of atypical working and again, could create opportunities for retaining female employees”, going on to say “retaining women during the middle years of their careers when typically employees start families but also go through important periods of developing skills and experience can only ensure a pipeline of female talent”.
So that’s our first tip: consider whether you could increase your workforce’s diversity by offering work-from-home options. The outcomes, like greater productivity and higher profits, may come faster than you think. All because you’re doing the right thing.
…alongside the freedom of flexible working hours
In a diverse workplace, it’s not just the people who are diverse; it’s the hours they work too. In Scandinavia, generous childcare provisions have led to 71% of adult women working at least part-time. In the USA, the figure is 57%.
And that’s not all. The new professions that seem to appear daily – in software development, online collaboration, technical planning and industrial design – need highly skilled professionals who have a great choice of where to work, and who often choose a job based on their desires as individuals. Many software stars can’t work effectively before 11am. Some prefer to start at 4am. Some creatives work in short bursts of two to three hours; others can or prefer work at lower intensities for longer.
If you work with people’s natural work styles – enabled by communications technology – you’ll get more out of them.
So that’s our next tip: assess whether you really need a 9-5 commitment from your workers. Professionals work best when given a goal within their skillset and the resources to complete it effectively – not when you lock them into strict schedules.
In a skills-hungry marketplace, the prospect of flexible working hours will often attract more talented professionals, regardless of gender. When people can work the hours that suit them, you’ll get better work – from both men and women.
Female professionals are a rising force in the UAE – so make use of them
A country’s most valuable resource is its people. Their demographic mix, levels of education, and sheer numbers all contribute to an economy’s diversity, robustness, and capacity for innovation – and the correlation is positive. Put simply, the more deeply your population is engaged in paid work, the more successful your country tends to become.
Legislation in the UAE recognises this, with a long-established official recognition of equal rights . Some 95% of female secondary school graduates in the Emirates continue on to higher education, compared to 80% of boys; literacy rates for both sexes are above 90%.
Plus, last year’s Clyde & Co workplace report found that “within the GCC, the UAE is looked to as a role model in this field given Sheikh Mohammed’s robust support of women working and the Dubai Government’s recent promotion of this issue”.
In short: the UAE leads the region. Yet so far, the full potential of this workforce is still yet to be realised.
So our final tip, and the real crux of our message for business owners looking to fill skills shortages: understand how many qualified women may be in your hiring pool. And if you feel you don’t have the facilities to best enable them – read the two points above and think again.
Remote working lets employees participate fully in company life even if their commitment can only be part-time, or if they’re too distant to make the daily commute. Audio and video conferencing technologies connect the remote worker with the head office seamlessly. There’s a real chance your company could acquire skills otherwise unavailable by offering prospective employees the option to work from home.
Equally, realigning work days to individual employee preferences will not only aid productivity, but potentially enable more female representation in your workforce. Allow those untapped sources of talent the flexibility to work around childcare or other commitments, and they’ll likely move mountains on your behalf.
And with the right technologies, like broadband videoconferencing, all this can be made possible without any break in contact.
So why not join with the GBC in extending those opportunities to women, and open up your business to a whole new pool of talent? It’s better business…but it’s also the right thing to do.
With legal and cultural changes all pointing towards a bright future for the UAE’s young people and women, it’s important to note why these changes are happening. Not simply because diversity in general is a “good thing” – but because it’s good for our people, our businesses, and our economy as a whole.
So if you’re in a position of responsibility in any sector, there are great benefits to being ahead of the curve. Expand your hiring pool and diversify your workforce not just to comply with regulation, but as a strategy for competitive advantage. You’ll be at the forefront of this exciting trend across our region.
For an introduction to the enabling technologies open to UAE businesses for communication and collaboration, and greater knowledge of how they can help you maintain a diverse talent pool, contact the Arkadin team.
- If you’re behind with your diversity goals, your business is missing out on talent
- The UAE is a regional leader in female workforce representation, but still behind global trends
- Offering remote or flexible working options is a great way to reach out to female professionals
- Those in management positions can leverage their position to help both the GBC’s diversity goals and their own businesses by getting out in front