Working women

What is working in Oman like for a woman?

Oman is steeped in traditional Islamic values, which means that men are still widely looked on as bread-winners and providers, and women as homemakers. However, western workers have served as catalysts for an emerging womens´ employment culture.

Arab women have traditionally worked in career fields such as teaching and nursing, but as foreign women have continued to arrive in Oman, opportunities have arisen in hotel management and the airline industry - not to mention traditionally male-dominated realms such as business management and advertising.

Increasingly, Omani women are looked upon as a hard-working, capable, and (unfortunately) cheap alternative to male employees. Most Omani women are paid far less than male employees, even if they possess equal (or in some cases even greater) skills and experience. In order for a women to have any chance of advancing in the workplace, she will need full and public support from her male relatives.

Things are not much different for foreign women. While most expatriate workers are men, their wives often seek part-time work, either to earn a little exra money for the family or simply to occupy their time.

This is not an easy process. Many eastern women´s working rights are restricted in Oman, and women that are eligible to work must obtain separate work visas and sponsors from their husbands. Many employers make this process difficult by steadfastly clinging to tradition and refusing to support women´s work visas.

In many cases, women end up working illegally. This is not considered a major crime in Oman, but if the authorities discover an illegal worker she will lose her job and her employer will have to pay a hefty fine.

Fortunately, once women enter the workforce they have little to worry about. Sexual harassment is far less common in Oman than it is in western workplaces (due to Islamic cultural tradition and extreme legal penalties), even though the gradual arrival of prostitutes (primarily from eastern Europe) has chipped away at some Omanis´ respect for foreign women.

For this reason, women should be careful about flirting with their male co-workers. Such behavior invites disrespect and unwanted advances from male colleagues and superiors.

Further reading

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