It is in the middle and top end of organisations that women's representation could still do with a sharper growth. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: The pandemic sure had positive outcomes too – more women in the Middle East and elsewhere used the disruptions to launch startups. It was effectively about women seeking to take ‘control of their careers’, according to new data from LinkedIn.

In a way, these women by launching their own businesses were doing their bit to close the gender gap. In 2020, women-owned startups were up 68 per cent in the UAE while those launched by men recorded a 46 per cent increase compared to 2019.

“Women’s careers faced many challenges during the pandemic as they were more likely to work in service sector jobs such as retail and hospitality, which were most affected by lockdowns,” the report states. “The pandemic also saw many women bear the double responsibility of work and caregiving, forcing them to seek greater flexibility than they were offered by their employers.”

According to Sue Duke, Head of Global Public Policy at LinkedIn, “The pandemic hit working women harder than men, as traditional gender roles took hold and female-dominated sectors bore the brunt of lockdowns.”

Gender diversity problems persist

LinkedIn released these finds as part of the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, which shows women remain under-represented in leadership positions globally. In the UAE, they hold only a fifth of leadership roles. “While women hold almost a third of entry-level roles in UAE, they hold under a quarter (22 per cent) of managerial roles and a little over one eighth (13 per cent) of C-suite leadership roles,” LinkedIn finds.

The UAE government has passing laws in these three years towards ensuring equal pay and a 50:50 representation in the Federal National Council. All publicly-listed companies must have at least one woman as board member. It also enacted legislation that prohibits all forms of discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, race, color and national origin.

The new LinkedIn findings also record gender bias in internal promotions, with men being almost a quarter more likely (22 per cent) to receive internal promotions to leadership roles than women in 2021 on average. This goes up to 33 per cent for men at the global level.

The sectors that saw the largest share of participation from women in the UAE were education (54 per cent), wellness and fitness (50 per cent) and healthcare (44 per cent). Even within these sectors, female leadership was still below parity at 44-, 38- and 26 per cent, respectively.

“The serious lack of women in leadership positions continues to be a real problem, yet data shows that male colleagues are far more likely to be promoted into leadership roles,” said Sue.