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Mon 30 Jan 2012 03:10 PM

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GCC women 'game-changers' in nationalisation push

Report says women could transform bid to get nationals into workplace, if firms would only hire them

GCC women 'game-changers' in nationalisation push
Private-sector firms are reluctant to hire women, Booz & Co found

GCC women
could radically change the success of government-led drives to increase the
number of nationals in the private sector, if firms could just be persuaded to
hire them, a new report said.

Women
make up more than half of university graduates in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and
Kuwait but this has not translated into success in the jobs market, said Booz
& Co’s report ‘Educated, Ambitious and Successful’.

The regional
rise in youth unemployment is largely a reflection of these unemployed women,
said report author Dr Leila Hoteit.

“Employing
these women could radically change nationalisation programmes [in the GCC],”
she said. “The growth in unemployment is actually female… and that’s because more
and more women graduate from university, register for work and don’t find the
work opportunities.”

GCC nations
are seeking to create thousands of private sector jobs for their citizens while
cutting back their reliance on foreign workers, who fill posts in sectors
ranging from retail to aviation.

The
drive has become more urgent in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions, which
underlined the risks posed by unemployed youths. Even countries that
sidestepped the unrest, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are keen to cut
joblessness among citizens to avoid future problems.

Saudi
Arabia, the GCC’s most populous state, needs to create 1.12 million jobs for
locals by 2014 and has unveiled tough new penalties for firms that fail to meet
Saudisation quotas.

GCC
states have accused private firms of shying away from hiring nationals, a
problem further exacerbated when the candidate is female, Hoteit said.

“There
is a preconception in the market that women might not be as committed because
they have family obligations
, or they might not make as good salespeople or
they might not want to travel as much,” said Hoteit, who is also the principal of
Booz & Co’s Abu Dhabi office.

“But
these are not accurate.”

Women in
Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia constitute 67 percent, 63 percent and 57 percent
of university graduates respectively. Wealthy Qatar has the highest level of
national women in the workplace at 35 percent, compared to 30 percent in
Bahrain, 28 percent in the UAE, 25 percent in Oman and just 17 percent in Saudi
Arabia, the report said.

“Companies
need to change at three levels; they need to have a vision…they need to have a business
case built on numbers,” said Hoteit “At the second level, they need to have a
series of policies or approaches around talent management so [work out] how
best to recruit those women, develop them and how to retain them.

“At the
third level it’s the change management; you need the whole company to get
behind you on that one, starting from the top,” she added.