Women are great for business!

A study of more than 800 businesses found that gender-diverse businesses had between 14-19% higher average financial outcomes than those dominated by one gender. This is because men and women tend to approach problems differently, as they have different viewpoints and market insights, which results in enhanced problem solving and better performance. Gender diversity also helps companies draw and retain talented women. Also, having a gender diverse workplace allows your company to serve a bigger and more diverse customer base.

Bahrain Ranked #131 in the Gender Gap Report

The 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, published by the Work Economic Forum (WEF), ranked Bahrain at 131 out of 144 countries (see below). The report revealed that women’s rate of participation in the labor force is below the global average. This isn’t because Bahraini women are not as qualified as men; the youth literacy rate among both Bahraini males and females is almost equal, and more females are enrolled in high schools and universities than males. So, what’s stopping us from achieving gender diversity in Bahrain’s labor market?

The Problem

Gender bias in the workplace is not as obvious as businesses putting up signs saying "we don’t hire women.” Instead, businesses disadvantage women in more subtle ways, that ultimately lead to women participating less in the workforce. I asked Bahraini women which factors affected their workforce participation the most. These were their answers:

1. Work-Life Balance

Employers reward those who work the longest least flexible hours and penalize workers who have caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace. This puts women at a disadvantage, as society still expects them to be the primary caretakers at home. So, a lot of women quit their jobs after starting a family, either because they are expected to or because they don’t want to be labeled as ‘selfish mothers’ who aren't looking after their families.

2. Bias among Recruitment Managers

Societal expectations of women affect recruiters’ decision to hire them -either consciously or subconsciously. When becoming parents, society expects a father to work 9-5 while his wife stays at home to take care of every child-related-emergency. Even before having children, just the act of becoming pregnant will mean more doctor appointments, followed by paid maternity leaves and child care hours— all things harder to do in jobs with rigid schedules.

The Solutions

Women are NOT the problem. The problem is a system that continues to disadvantage women. Companies cannot ignore 50% of the potential workforce and expect to be competitive in the global economy. So, here is a list of suggestions to promote gender diversity at your workplace:

1. Offer and Support Flexible Hours

Implementing policies that make all hours EQUALLY valuable is essential. This means moving away from the traditional 9-5 schedule and allowing your employees to opt for a more flexible working day. It’s not like the 9-5 workday model is a successful one to begin with; many studies found that long hours aren’t always productive.

2. Don’t Email Employees after Hours!

No one understands the importance of work-life balance like the French, which is why employers can’t contact their employees after work hours. Employees have the right to disconnect! Implementing a similar policy in your workplace will promote a healthy work-life balance by allowing all your employees to disconnect from their digital devices and reconnect with their families and loved ones.

3. Have Transparent Career Paths & Salary Structures

A study found that managers couldn’t tell the difference between employees who worked an 80-hour week and those who pretended to. This is why you should not disproportionately reward those willing to work the longest hours. Instead, develop a clear salary and allowances scale and make it accessible to your employees. You can refer to the Civil Services Bureau Payroll Basic for inspiration -they have a great system in place!

Shooq AlTamimi

Reader, writer, and educator. A believer in gender equality and an advocate of women empowerment.

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