The Gender Gap within Engineering Firms in the UAE

STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is the pillar for driving the economy globally. Just three years ago, the GCC was reported to have a significantly lower average of labour participation from women within Stem fields compared with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) average. The latter was at 51% while the former stood at 20%. And in the same year, a World Economic Forum (WED) Global Gender Gap Index showed that 46% of UAE graduates within Stem are women.

These figures are a representation that women have been actively studying Stem subjects, but the issue seems to be getting them to join the Stem workforce thereafter. In fact, there have been a number of female students who have changed their field of study from within Stem areas to other subjects during their course of education.

Why are there lesser women within the Engineering industry in the UAE?

1. Lack of female professors and instructors

Most female students enter an Engineering programme full of enthusiasm to learn and pursue a career within the same area of study. However, they are often faced with a lack of female professors and instructors to act as role models for these female students. In fact, most of the seminars, lab work or other study groups are driven by male professors which thereby creates a false misconception of a male-dominated career path to these female students.

2. Cultural mind-set

Women in general are pulled away from careers within the Engineering sector as the latter is deemed more “socially acceptable” by men. As such, women tend to face external pressure including their peers, to find a work environment that has a better gender balance to avoid extensive interactions with the opposite sex. Women tend to join a sector which portrays to have more females, as it creates an image of an ideal employer for females. The public sector for example, is one such career path that women tend to follow.

This comes along with the social pressure on women to focus on family responsibilities including starting a family. This highly pulls women away from pursuing a career within Engineering.

3. Lack of confidence

Despite a study by Standford University which showed that female engineering students perform just as well as males do, it seems like women in general lack confidence in their skill-set to pursue their career within engineering. Men on the other hand, tend to be risk takers and are usually extremely confident with the job(s) they can undertake. As such, women tend to fall out of the route to engineering before they even begin.

How do we bridge this gender gap within the Engineering sector?

The gender gap within the Engineering sector in the UAE is slowly closing and has in fact made vast improvements in the last two years. With a female role model such as Aisha Al Marzouqi who is the country’s first woman crane-operator at Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi, this has helped to create visible female participation within Engineering.

Beyond that, there is a need to cultivate more of such female role models to break free of the cultural mind-set the country is in, as well as boost the confidence of women in general. With this, it attempts to create motivational goals for women who wish to enter the engineering sector – that it is possible for women to undertake engineering roles. This should actually be rolled out across all workplaces, not just the engineering sector. As such, the UAE Gender Balance Council has launched a comprehensive set of guidelines and concrete actions aimed at helping UAE organisations to adopt a gender-sensitive approach at their workplace.

Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and Dubai Women Establishment mentioned, “This initiative further strengthens our efforts to reduce the gender gap across all sectors, enhance the UAE’s ranking in global competitiveness reports on gender equality and achieve gender balance in decision-making positions, as well as promote the UAE as a model for gender balance.”

How can Progressive Engineering help you with your diversity outlook?

At Progressive, we have consistently been in search of female talent within the engineering sector. As such, we have steadily increased women hires in the engineering field over the last 5 years. This has led to a year-on-year increase in terms of women hires.

Although there are significantly more men than women within the engineering sector as one climbs the corporate ladder, women in fact have a higher chance of securing a role than men. At senior level roles, 50% of women who went for an interview under Progressive were selected and offered a role. This is an extremely high percentage considering the huge gender gap within Engineering. This figure also represents a demand for females within senior positions in Engineering.

On the other hand, the gender gap amongst engineering organisations that Progressive works with has also decreased significantly over the last three years. In 2016, we had approximately 10% of female hiring managers who are working with Progressive Engineering as compared to less than 3% in the past. This has shown that the engineering sector is slowly, but surely, closing this gender gap within the UAE. Progressive has also been actively assisting with the push in bridging this gender gap.

If you would like to find out more about the gender diversity for the engineering sector within the available talent pool in UAE, please email our Dubai office at [email protected] or follow our LinkedIn page for more industry updates.

Sources: Gulf News, Arabian Business