As part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan to revamp its economy, the kingdom has set a goal of increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22% currently to 30% by the target year. The UAE, too, is working hard to close the gender gap, with its ‘Gender Balance Guide’ laying down benchmarks to enhance gender parity and promote women-friendly workplace policies.
These efforts to create a more inclusive workplace have not gone unnoticed. Fifty percent of employees who participated in a Monster poll to rate how women-friendly their employers are said their companies ranked “highly” on this front. While 27% gave their company ‘average’ ratings, only 10% said it was ‘quite low’.
As a career woman, it is imperative that you choose to work in a company that believes in and promotes women-friendly policies in order to reach your fullest potential. If you’re looking for a job, here’s how to determine whether a company is women-friendly:
The job adCompanies that value a women-friendly or family-friendly work culture are generally quick to mention it upfront on their job advertisements. Some of the other ways they may convey the same message is through terms like ‘work-life balance’ and ‘flexibility’. If you see such words in a job ad, it could be worth it to explore the opportunity further.
Company benefitsWhile maternity leave is mandated by law, keep an eye out for additional family-oriented benefits such as educational assistance for children, paid parental leave, childcare facilities, support groups for parents and expected parents, summer camps, family medical insurance, elder care for ageing parents and dependents, etc. all of which are strong indicators of a family-friendly company approach.
Ask questions during the interviewMost people see job interviews as a process whose sole purpose is to allow employers to vet different candidates. But this view overlooks the fact that candidates too are expected to utilize this opportunity to determine whether the company is right for them or not. Use the interview to obtain a clearer picture of where the company stands vis-à-vis women-friendly policies by posing questions about the daily routine on the job, the necessity of working on weekends, travel requirements, etc. While you’re there, try and look around the place to see if you spot facilities like a crèche or lactation room.
Look up the company’s harassment policyNothing harms a company’s organisational culture more than the looming threat of sexual harassment, which is why most good companies have their harassment policies listed right upfront—usually on their websites. An effective sexual harassment policy should include a definition of sexual harassment, the objectives of the policy, examples of what constitute harassment and what does not, a description of the reporting and redressal mechanism, the consequences of sexual harassment, information about where the aggrieved can find help, and an unambiguous zero-tolerance message towards harassment incidents. Finding these details in the policy document could be a sign that the company takes the rights and well-being of its women employees seriously.
Tap into your professional networkBefore accepting a job offer, tap into your professional network to gain some insight into the company culture. Find out whether they actively recruit women and if women are provided with adequate career development opportunities. Talking to people close to the organisation will present you with a true picture of the company and allow you to clarify any doubts you may harbour regarding working at the place.
The presence of women in the top leadership is another strong indicator of a women-friendly workplace. Also, observe whether many women are present in the office and whether any of them are sitting on the interview panel. If possible, try and ask some of the women you see around you how long they’ve been with the company—the employee retention rates of women employees could be revealing of their level of satisfaction. Finally, don’t ignore your intuition: it’s better to avoid the company if something doesn’t feel right even if you can’t tell what it is.