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An interview with Hamdah Said Al Shamsi, Acting General Manager, Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI)
Hamdah Said Al Shamsi has wide experience in the field of finance and management along with more than 25 years of leadership experience with the Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI) where she held various roles and with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She is also a contributing editor to several major magazines and newspapers in Oman. Mrs Al Shamsi has authored four books. Ms Shamsi is also a speaker and an active member of Toastmasters International in Oman.
Hamdah Said Al Shamsi.
Public Authority for Social Insurance Oman
Assistant General Manager Administration & Finance
1. According to you, what factors are responsible for the absence of female presence in leadership roles?
There are many factors that are responsible for the absence of female presence in the leadership role worldwide not just in the region. Some factors are related to women themselves who don’t stay long enough on the job for them to be promoted for various reasons. The main reason of course is the work life balance as women are forced either to take long leaves to take care of their children or elders or leave the job earlier. Another factor is lack of confidence in women which causes them to not aspire for higher position even though they are very qualified and capable.
Some factors are related to the organization's policies which do not encourage women participation in the leadership positions. Mainly due to stereotypes that assume women are not capable of being leaders which results in not giving them equal chance for training and development which would lead to develop their leadership skills. Organizations in this part of the world don’t give attention to coaching and mentoring which is essential in building leaders in both men and women.
2. What are the major issues faced by women in the region’s workforce?
Since work life balance is the main contributing factor behind the women participation in the work force. In our society woman are viewed by the society as the care taker of the family while the man is the bread winner role. For that there are no facilities provided for the working females that allow them to work and take care of the family at the same time. Basic facilities as day care for the younger children or flexible working hours like in other parts of the world. The other thing is lack of suitable jobs in the area where majority of women are staying with jobs concentrated in the big cities which requires a lot of travel from female workers. In addition to that the social norms are a main barrier for women to work in many sectors which cause the majority of female to work in sector that are seen more suitable for girls like education which does not have room for growth.
3. How can HR policies can lead to female empowerment?
An HR policy that promotes gender equalities plays important roles in increasing women participation in the work place and also increases her participation in the leadership positions. HR can put in place different measures that make it easier for women to take jobs and increase performance, also paying attention to training and development that doesn't exclude women and which includes coaching and mentoring.
4. What are the positive trends you have noticed in the HR practices in the region?
The GCC countries are working on women empowerment initiatives that had a positive effect in increasing workforce participation of young girls especially in the private sector where nationalization initiatives have been successful lately. In Oman, some major amendments to the Labor Law have been done to close the gap between the public and private sector work environment making the private sector more attractive: such as the minimum wage and the working conditions in the private sectors which includes two days weekend and alignment of public holidays with the public sector. The legal framework has been one of the challenges, due to the absence of law enforcement even though there are good laws that support gender equality in Oman for example. For that, Oman for an example establishes an Administrative Court that handles such issues. The government is promoting “the first woman” to leadership position in both the private and public sectors to have more women participating in the leadership roles.
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