Exploring Workplace Attitudes and Gender Roles Across Cultures

In this #YesSheCan blog, we are exploring the intersection and impact of different cultural attitudes, particularly in Kenya and Dubai, and the impact of gender roles on workplace attitudes.

Cultural Attitudes and Gender Roles

Culture holds a profound influence in establishing societal norms and expectations, especially those regarding gender roles; these different attitudes frequently perpetuate inequities in job opportunities, career growth, and work-life balance, especially for women.
As an international student navigating a different cultural landscape, adjusting to both a student learning environment and workplace expectations/norms has been difficult and rewarding. Encountering culture shock (the initial shock and anxiety upon being in a new cultural environment) was inevitable and common but with time and having an open mind – it becomes easier to adapt and thrive in diverse settings.
In today’s globalised world, the workplace acts as a cultural melting pot, where cultural attitudes collide with gender biases to shape people’s experiences and opportunities. In many cultures, traits such as confidence, assertiveness and decisiveness are highly valued in leaders that are traditionally associated with masculinity, this presents challenges for women in leadership positions as they may be regarded as lacking these characteristics or as being ‘too controlling’ if they exhibit them.
Another example might be how women are typically expected to take up caregiving and administrative tasks, whilst men are encouraged to pursue more technical or leadership positions. Such presumptions can result in gendered division in specific fields or departments. Understanding and challenging these dynamics is essential for promoting equal opportunities for success for everyone across the board.

Challenges and Opportunities faced by women in Kenya and Dubai

Despite Kenya’s gender-neutral employment laws, female workers remain susceptible to male chauvinism and various other forms of discrimination, for example,  Irene Kendi outlines what it is like to be a working woman in Kenya she goes over how maternity has been exploited to justify the exclusion of women from certain high-ranking positions. Some employers discriminate against women who express a desire to start a family, instead favouring those who are already mothers or claim they have no plans for parenthood.
However, Kenya has made strides towards promoting gender equality and defending women’s rights in the workplace through organisations and advocacy groups, such as the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)aims to promote awareness about women’s workplace rights and provide legal aid to individuals who face discrimination, not just in the workplace but in all aspects of their lives.
Even amidst Dubai’s cosmopolitan environment, women, particularly expatriate women, encounter various challenges while living in Dubai, especially with 68.7% of the population being male where men still dominate a majority of the industries.
For example, Visa regulations pose challenges for expatriate women, as their employment and residency status may be tied to their spouses or employers, limiting their autonomy and mobility. Some women may face constraints in pursuing career opportunities or accessing support services due to visa sponsorship requirements, which might highlight feelings of dependency and vulnerability.
Fortunately, The UAE government has developed several initiatives to economically empower women and increase their involvement in the workforce. These include laws that prevent gender discrimination, as well as initiatives like the Dubai Women Establishment, which seeks to strengthen women’s roles in Dubai’s socio-economic future through research and interactive programmes.
Although there has been a progressive shift in attitudes towards gender equality, exploring the complex dynamics of workplace attitudes and gender roles across cultures reveals that cultural norms have a significant impact on the opportunities and challenges that people experience in their careers.
As we navigate the complexity of cultural diversity and the roles that gender plays in the global workplace, we must continue to advocate for equitable opportunities and challenge societal norms that perpetuate inequality. We can establish workplaces where people may attain their full potential, regardless of cultural background or gender, by cultivating environments that value diversity and encourage gender equality.
This blog was written by Ashley Ndung’u, a Media Communications and Culture student at Nottingham Trent University, while on her #YesSheCan Work Experience Placement.

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