Financial independence a key driver for Mena's working women

Economic and social factors continue to alter the landscape for working women, new survey finds

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Financial independence and the rising importance of their economic contribution to household incomes are key factors driving women to enter the workforce in the Mena region, according to a new survey by jobs site and YouGov.

Fifty-five per cent of respondents want financial independence through employment, while 51 per cent want to support their families and 42 per cent aim to secure their children's futures, the Working Women in the Mena Survey found.

Economic and social factors continue to alter the landscape for working women, said the survey, which polled more than 1,240 working women from 18 countries in the Mena region, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria.

“Our survey explores the status of working women across the Mena region by analysing their perceptions about equality at work and their motivations for employment,” Ola Haddad, director of human resources at, said.

“It identifies the employment challenges today’s working women face and examines how these concerns relate to their job and career decisions.”

A research report by global consultancy McKinsey & Company last year found that women's jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic compared with men's jobs.

“Women make up 39 per cent of global employment but account for 54 per cent of overall job losses [during Covid-19],” McKinsey said. “One reason for this greater effect on women is that the virus is significantly increasing the burden of unpaid care, which is disproportionately carried by women.

“This, among other factors, means that women’s employment is dropping faster than average, even accounting for the fact that women and men work in different sectors.”

The and YouGov survey found that 73 per cent of respondents in the Mena region are comfortable working in a mixed-gender environment, while just 4 per cent said they were uncomfortable.

“Overall, the majority of respondents believed women and men are treated equally in the workplace across a variety of areas including career progression, recruitment and selection and benefits,” the survey said.

Just over 60 per cent reported working the same number of hours as their male colleagues, while 22 per cent said they worked more hours, the survey found.

However, across the Mena region, 36 per cent of respondents believe their salary is lower than their male counterparts, while 46 per cent say they receive equal pay.

Meanwhile, 36 per cent of respondents said women have a lower chance of being promoted compared with 52 per cent who said promotions depend entirely on job performance and that gender plays no role in their career progression.