The pandemic accelerated a long-term global trend of more women founding their own businesses, according to the professional social networking site LinkedIn.
The share of women founders has doubled in the past five years, with a 43 per cent jump in the founding rate for women between 2019 and 2020. The UAE outpaced the global average, with the share of female founders growing by 68 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019.
The world's biggest social networking site for workers and employers has described some in this cohort as "necessity entrepreneurs", those who have been driven to become self-employed by a need for income and a lack of opportunity through traditional workplaces, as well as reduced start-up costs, such as physical offices.
"We have to recognise that many of these entrepreneurs had their hand forced by inequitable working environments and we must take urgent steps to make workplaces work for women," said Sue Duke, the head of global public policy at LinkedIn.
In the UAE, the government has introduced public policy reforms to promote equality in the workplace, passing several laws between 2019 and 2021, including equal pay and a 50/50 representation in the Federal National Council, and requiring listed companies in the country to have at least one female board member. It also enacted legislation that prohibits all forms of discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, race, colour and national origin.
Despite progress, women experienced the majority of pandemic-related job losses globally because they were more likely to work in service sector jobs, such as retail and hospitality, which were affected by lockdowns. Women also bore the double responsibility of work and caregiving, forcing them to seek greater flexibility than they were offered by their employers.
"The figures in today’s report show that the world of work doesn’t work as well for women as it does for men. In the UAE ― as elsewhere ― we see women under-represented in leadership positions, holding just a fifth of these roles," Ms Duke told The National.
The new data, which was shared as part of the 2022 World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report, also found apparent gender bias in internal promotions, with men 33 per cent more likely to receive internal promotions than women in 2021. In the UAE the figure was 22 per cent.
"We know that the problems we face are systemic, which means we need a systemic response," Ms Duke said. "The data shows there are three key areas where we must do more: improving internal mobility for women; introducing more flexible work options; and hiring inclusively."
LinkedIn found that under-representation starts as early as the management level, which then creates a narrower path for talent that only shrinks with seniority. While women hold 31 per cent of entry-level roles in the UAE, they hold 22 per cent of manager roles and 13 per cent of C-suite leadership roles.
Its data shows that women globally are 24 per cent more likely than men to apply for remote roles.