Women Workers: The on going struggle with stereotypes and perception (Part 2) [Archives:2008/1127/Business & Economy]

February 7 2008

By: Rasha Jarhum
[email protected]

Related research in western countries reveals that women are less appreciated than men in the work place. This is again comes as a result of our perceptions and stereotyping which are shortcut processes to reach understanding. In this follow up report, interviews were made with employees and employers in Yemen to evaluate working women and men of the organization in terms of performance, self motivation, mobility, commitment and dedication, teamwork and leadership skills, and qualifications.

Performance and Qualification:

The majority of women and men employers (interviewees) agreed that there are certain jobs that are better done by a woman than a man. This perception is derived from the gender roles in the Yemeni society that lead to gender jobs segregation.

Alia, employee in the private sector indicates: “I think women perform better in the jobs that you don't want to see corruption in them ..like banks..a woman is more faithful..and in teaching she's more sincere and because originally she's a mother I feel she gives more than a man.. “

Khaldon, employee in the private sector feels the same: “Depends on the job, if it was a maternity ward then women or like in kids schools, because women in their nature are tender and nurturing .. I think women are better in teaching and dealing with kids they have patience and from my personal experience a female teacher feels like a mom when teaching kids..”

However, when it came to their own experiences and their working environments, many women believe they perform better than the man, while the men think women cannot perform like a man because of certain advantages such as his qualifications and his mobility.

Yasmeen, employee in the government sector states: ” …men generally are lazy..we work better than them …we stay in our jobs till 3pm as the law requires while the men leave by 12am to catch the Qat of the day..”

From an employer perspective, men indicated that women are not as qualified as men hence do not perform as men. In addition, they pointed out that a man's life experience maybe more rich due to the fact that men in our culture have their freedom and their social interaction is more, unlike women who has restricted freedom. This was also indicated by males and females employers in the government sector.

Ayman employer in the private sector states: “Yes men are better because men are usually better qualified and equipped to deal with any scenario they might face which increases their overall work performance.. men naturally interact more with other people and gain experience and hence their learning curve is more mature than women ..”

Hussn, employer in the government sector indicates: “we have many research projects..and I do prefer to give those projects to women to encourage them and give them chances but unfortunately the outcomes of those research are not satisfactory, although, those women may be Phd holders and university lecturers en analysis and interpretation abilities are better and their presentation skills and ability is also better nd maybe this is due our suppressing culture for girls…it's a shame to talk nd if she talks she must talk in a low voice and men are out spoken and rational presenting cases and hence is a result for their quality of work

Self Motivation:

It was found that self motivation of Yemeni employees is perceived to be low in both gender. This was more referred to by employers of the government sector.

Salma, employer in the government expressed: “..I think in our Yemeni Society and in general, self motivation does not almost exist..Maybe due to the way we are up raised and the education system from primary to university level does not enhance or create both gender skills…however in our organization I see women to be more self motivated but I cannot generalize

In the private sector, the majority of employers described that self motivation of female employees is less than in men. However, they also indicated that self-motivation is either temporary or unstable according to women's emotions that keep changing. Some of them also asserted that women start their jobs highly motivated and then after some time of routine work they start losing their self motivation. While a male's self motivation is more stable.

Fadl, employer in the private sector indicates: “women come very motivated in the first few months of the job and then loses all that because they feel bored with it and because they are moody.. but men maintain their self motivation through out the year..”

This reflects discriminative thinking and proves that employers need to be educated in diversity management. The way to motivating men maybe different than motivating women. Additionally, it was found that men are motivated by money while women do not care about money as much as they care about enhancing their learning experience and have challenging jobs.

Faozia, employee in the private sector states: “when I first got in, I was so excited and I wanted to do more field work and meet the clients..but they told me that I will start by doing the desk job and that eventually I will start doing field work later..and now seven years later .. I'm still the desk girl doing the same things..and it's not motivating..but I try to do the job differently in order to enjoy it…”

It was also found that motivation decrease when women feel injustice treatment in the work place. This is more so in governmental organizations because there are persisting discriminative actions against women in giving promotions and rewards.

Huda, employee in the government sector commenting on discriminative actions against women in terms of promotions and financial rewards states: “…and this may cause problems in performance and motivation and the woman starts thinking even if I work harder the reward is going to my male co-worker and hence she does not work and her performance decrease in comparison to men


The Yemeni culture puts women under mobility restrictions. The idea of letting women go out of the house was not accepted at all for many Yemeni families until recently. Through this report it was found that night shifts for female workers in the government are organized by ministerial decrees.

Hooria Mashour, the Vice Chairperson of the Women National Committee states: “…if we look into the law itself..we find that it has limited women's work..for example..women's work at night has restriction in the labour law ..for example at night shifts a women's assignment for that kind of work at that time must be organized by a decree from the minister himself..for instance night shifts for female nurses or female criminal investigators..”

The mobility issue was perceived by all employers, females and males, in both government and private sectors as a disadvantage for women and as an advantage that a man enjoys.

Mohammad, employer in the private sector states: ” Women are a liability because they don't get mobile easily due to the social circumstances..for example If we have to cover an event and I want to send a woman she would ask for a special car or a taxi that would take her to the place and bring her back but a man goes anywhere and I give him just an amount of money and manages and get to any where nd I can send him to Taiz..to Aden or anywhere..” (Women generally are not comfortable with public transport because of harassments9)

The mobility of women is hence restricted because of reasons attributed to culture such as

it's a shame for woman to stay out late.

Rana, employee in the private sector expressed: “In Yemen, a girl who stay home is respectful and a woman who leaves home regardless if she's going to work or study or anything she is less respected..and if a woman goes out everyday or less than that for her enjoyment whether shopping or going to parks or visiting friends they start telling her 'no, you have got out so much this week, it's a shame , it's enough, stay home' nd when you go out to work it is considered that you have got out from your protective area and it is ok if men harass you


The majority of employers in both the government and private sector believe that women are more committed to the job than men. According to them, male employees seem to be more committed to whoever pays more. While women most of the time don't care much about the money and are more willing to do volunteering work.

Ahmed, employer in the private sector states: “women sometimes are more committed than men because most of the time a women get attached to the cause of the job while men's commitment is motivated by the need to earn more money.. “

However, women who are single were seen as not constant, because it is perceived that they don't hold their decision to continue working in their hand instead a husband hold that decision for them.

Salwa, employer in the private sector: ” we have lost up to three women to marriage..the moment they get married..they stop working..I even remember in college..a woman who got married dropped school..there are some women who are just waiting for marriage as a rescue mission from the struggling world of education or work..that's how they view it to learn or to work is hard work..but I think it's because of our culture that prepares them for such a role since they are babies..”

Team Work and Leadership Skills:

The majority of employers thought that females are better team players than taking up leadership parts. Moreover, men were perceived to be more of natural leaders and not so good team players.

Sawsan, employer in the private sector indicates: ” women are better in team work because team work allow them to share the work and because it some how imply getting help from team members and women has no problem with that..while men's ego may prevent them to work in team work..they perform better when they work individually and sometimes they don't need supervision at all..”

In terms of leadership skills, the gender roles associated with the man as the head of the household play a major role in perceiving that women are not capable leaders.

Yasser, employer in the private sector states: “Men are natural leaders in most cases because our society does not accept leadership of a woman..”

The majority of female employers also indicated that working women do not readily take up leadership positions and that most working women lack basic skills of leadership such as making fast decisions. The majority of female employers also noted that men do not accept their leadership and that they don't listen to their directions.

Nadia, employer explained: “…and men in our tribal Yemeni community in general do not accept directions from women..it is very hard for him and his ego nd actually I recall an incident which happened here in this organization between 2 of my employees..they had great battles as he never accepts or follows her directions although she's his supervisor.. he screams 'she will not order me' ..”


Perceptions and stereotyping work to promote and maintain particular constructions of masculine and feminine. Conventional perceptions and stereotyping of roles of men and women outside the workplace, as breadwinner and care-giver/housewife respectively, influence perceptions within the workplace, affecting both men and women, generally to detriment of women, and leading to gendered processes and their asymmetrical effects there are different types of stereotyping (often unconscious) that women suffer from both in the inside and outside of the organization, therefore, employers should be more aware about their tendencies to stereotype. Adapting Evaluation Programs, Leadership Training, Cultural Training and Gender Sensitizing Program and some Human Resource Team Building Activities will provide an order to help sustain some objectivity to the management in Yemen, whether at the government or private sectors.

*: Rasha Jarhum is a Social Scientist Working with Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights.