Female students in the UAE still expect lower salaries than their male peers, a study has revealed.
Almost 50 per cent of women said they expected to be paid below Dh5,000, yet only 40 per cent of men said they would accept salaries at this level.
The survey found that nearly one in four women were happy to be paid under Dh7,500 while 12 per cent men wanted starting salaries between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000.
The divide was revealed in the What About Youth? survey of about 11,000 students at 16 universities in Dubai's Academic City, including Heriot-Watt, Middlesex and Wollongong.
Of those polled, 52 per cent were Emirati, 31 per cent were from Saudi Arabia and 17 per cent were UAE residents from other countries. About 43 per cent of respondents were women.
While the UAE has introduced legislation enshrining equal pay in the private sector, experts said the survey showed women underestimated their skills and still must speak up to ensure they were being paid the same.
"It will take time to bridge this gender gap," said Marketa Simkova, partner at global professional services firm KPMG, which ran the survey with Dubai International Academic City, and the Talent Enterprise, a psychometric testing firm.
“Women need to boost their confidence and not be afraid to ask for the same salaries their male colleagues get."
The findings mirror trends globally with a gender pay gap estimated at 23 per cent. According to the United Nations, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn for work of equal value.
At this rate, it would take the next 257 years to close the global gender pay gap, the UN estimated.
The study also found that women were persisting with traditional job choices such as human resources, education and social and life sciences, with only eight per cent considering careers in finance and accounting. A mere four per cent picked robotics or information technology.
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Ms Simkova said women were under the misconception that these fields were difficult.
She said employers needed to reassess how they marketed themselves to women.
“Women need to be encouraged into different fields of work like entrepreneurship," said Ms Simkova.
Only eight per cent of women surveyed said they would consider entrepreneurship compared with 18 per cent of men.
Radhika Punshi, managing director of the Talent Enterprise, said women often underestimated their skills and experience.
“If men feel they have five out of ten skills required in a job they apply for it, but a woman will wait till she has eight or more of the required skills before applying for a job," said Ms Punshi.
"On paper, there is no skill difference [between men and women] but it’s just about creating awareness.
“Women tend to get into some careers because of family or traditions.
“From the time they are at school, we need to get women interested in careers in science and technology."
She advised women to try entrepreneurship and to network and said women needed to boost their self-confidence.
The study also recommended giving incentives to women to participate in entrepreneurship initiatives.