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“The association between e-commerce barriers and gender has not been explored in-depth, even though it has implications for the adoption of this technology” (Kolsaker & Payne, 2002). As evident from many developed nations, the role of women in issues that affect the economy cannot be ignored. The difference between the way men and women perceive issues needs to be addressed effectively to allow consistency.
A study carried out by MacGregor & Vrazalic (2008) reveals that men and women face different challenges as business managers and entrepreneurs. “Addition findings from the study reveal a greater differentiation of barriers within male-owned/managed SMEs, which suggests the need for more customized e-commerce adoption program in these organizations” (MacGregor & Vrazalic, 2008). Differing levels of appreciation for e-commerce between men and women could slow down the level of growth in its application. Women must develop the same level of appreciation for e-commerce as men to allow its development.
Issues that concern men in business management further differ from those which women would be concerned about. While women are more concerned about details, men tend to pay attention to cumulative progress. Their management styles further differ as explained by Hersey, Kenneth & Dewey (2008) who point out that “female managers of small business are more comfortable with giving instructions to staff through informal conversation than are their male counterparts”. Communication and problem-solving strategies further differ. “While men will stress the role and use of power, female managers stressed the importance of interpersonal communications” (Whitehead & Roy, 1999).
Gender differences in the perception of e-commerce
Gender plays a significant role when it comes to the adoption of new technologies and business practices. The differences arise from the way men and women perceive the importance of a certain technology, its benefits, and its challenges. A study conducted in Australia by (MacGregor & Vrazalic, 2008) reveals that there is no major difference between the way women and men view e-commerce but reveals a difference in the way men and women react to technological problems facing their businesses. In a study conducted on small business owners, the results reveal that men are less concerned about new technologies for their businesses and felt they don’t need them. Women on the other hand are more receptive as far as new technologies are concerned. They are keen on understanding how the technologies could benefit their businesses and how easily the technologies can be integrated into their businesses.
In the UEA, gender differences arise from many other factors. The level of literacy among women is lower compared to that of men. This makes it more difficult for a larger number of women to appreciate and use new technologies in the market such as e-commerce. It may not be easy to shop online if one does not understand the technical language associated with some parameters of an online transaction. The other difference between men and women is their level of exposure. Men are generally more exposed than women and are likely to learn about new trends and technologies quicker. This is mostly blamed on religion which allows women a smaller space to interact and explore trends. For a region where the majority of the people are Muslims, women have less participation in public forums and have less representation in areas where policies are made and discussed. As a result, they are less likely to be involved in using e-commerce or incorporate it into their businesses.
Managerial differences between men and women
As Carter (2000) explains, “studies conducted in the past on the role of gender in business management have revealed that women and men have very different management approaches. Studies in Europe, Scandinavia, and the US show that females saw the small business sector as a means of circumventing the ‘glass ceiling’”. The studies further reveal that the growth of females in the sector in Australia is over four times that of males. Even in this situation, the reality is still to catch up with an environment where men and women should enjoy equal chances in business management. “The successful managerial stereotype remains masculine-self confident, dominating, competitive, decisive, aggressive and independent” (Rodgers and Maryanne, 2003).
Cultural conditioning and gender stereotyping further create a big difference in the way women approach technical issues and solutions at work, as well as how they develop teams to manage challenges at work. Women are more likely to use their positions to create an environment where people are supported and nurtured. Men on the other hand use senior positions to create a hierarchal environment where nothing short of obedience is expected. The environment supports issuing and receiving orders, as well as authority. Women grow up knowing how to be responsible and handle easy things that have well-defined futures. As a result, technical issues which can be hard to predict become hard to manage.
Further differences arise from the way men and women perceive issues and at what level of priority they place on them. According to Carlin (2009) “Females perceive technical issues to be a more important barrier than organizational issues”. Men on the other hand are more concerned with the development of a plan and how a new aspect will help develop the plan. This is echoed by MacGregor & Vrazalic (2007) who explains that “by contrast, male SME owners/managers are more concerned with the sustainability and of e-commerce in the organization, implying the need for a different focus in e-commerce initiatives”.
Men and women adopt different strategies in the way they handle business-related issues. Furthermore, they have different preferences and strategies as consumers. These differences are widespread and revolve around adaptability, attitude regarding new business paradigms, and the perception of risks (Akhter, 2008).In the Middle East, there are few economic and political opportunities for women as compared to what is available for men. This has been the trend for a long as men and women continue to assume different roles in society. This trend is explained in the gender role theory which explains that boys and girls assumed roles that were assigned to them as they grew up, roles that they have to keep up with even as men and women. In the Middle East, women are considered to be homemakers while men are considered as providers. This means that men are constantly involved in different economic activities to earn a living for themselves as well as for their families.
As a result of their strong physical features, men are considered the stronger sex. More economic responsibility is placed on them leaving them in a position where they are constantly interacting with social and economic activities. Women were and still are in some parts considered the weaker sex and are assigned less aggressive duties such as taking care of children. In the UAE, the situation is slowly changing and women have access to more economic activities. Women today have access to education, formal employment, they have entitlement rights, and have legal representation when need be. As a result, they are more involved in economic activities and can easily relate to different economic paradigms.
E-commerce and gender in the UAE
E-commerce is increasingly becoming a popular aspect of many businesses. This is so in both developing and developed worlds as businesses try to reach global markets. In the last decade, there has been an increased rate at which businesses adopt e-commerce as a strategy in improving their level of performance in the contemporary competitive market. However, several barriers have delayed the adoption of e-commerce. One of the main barriers to e-commerce is gender.
However, it remains that the role of gender in the perception of issues affecting e-commerce has not been investigated comprehensively. This is even though gender influence is a formidable force in many aspects of life and even technology. This paper seeks to understand the differences between men’s and women’s perceptions of challenges facing e-commerce and significant barriers in the UAE. The country is considered the pioneer of gender empowerment in the Middle East and therefore, a study carried out in the region can be used to come up with significant recommendations even for the other countries in the region. In the past, researchers have put more interest in the differences between men and women in social issues, making it difficult to access literature on gender differences where technical matters are concerned.
There is a significant difference in the perception of barriers to e-commerce between men and women. To eliminate the barriers to e-commerce, there is a need to have a clear understanding of various perceptions of these barriers to come up with necessary solutions. Gender has a major role in the perception of these barriers, which are encountered in the adoption of e-commerce in the UAE. This part of the paper will analyze the role of gender in the perception of barriers to e-commerce in the UAE. The research methodology will be designed in a way that allows men and women to share their views on different aspects of e-commerce. The differences in their views will then be used to formulate arguments, conclusions, and recommendations for the paper.
Since the introduction of the internet, e-commerce has become very common in conducting various business activities all over the world. E-commerce has brought significant changes in the community in various aspects. It has also brought changes in the social environment. The adoption of e-commerce has helped in the elimination of various barriers in international trade. Organizations can now use various information and communication technologies in different business activities. However, e-commerce has not yet achieved its potential in the international market. In Arab countries, e-commerce is still far away from reaching its potential level. This is despite the significance of its impact on the global market.
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Several barriers have faced the adoption of e-commerce by many businesses in the UAE. One of the main barriers is the cost. The adoption of the current technology usually requires a significant amount of capital in its implementation. Many organizations are however not ready to incur such expenses. Another barrier in the adoption of e-commerce is the complexity involved in its implementation. This kind of technology requires an organization to adopt several changes in its operations. For instance, it may face resistance in an attempt to implement these changes. When resistance takes place in an organization, it usually has a significant implication in various business operations. Some organizations may also not be in a position to access the necessary resources required for the adoption of this kind of technology. In addition, security concerns are also a major barrier to the adoption of e-commerce among others. As a result, the adoption of e-commerce in the UAE has not been successful as expected.
As already noted, there are several barriers to E-commerce in the UAE. These barriers have to some extent obstructed the adoption of E-commerce. Although there have been several studies carried out on the possible barriers to E-commerce, there has not been an adequate effort made to examine the association between e-commerce and gender in the UAE. This is even though it has a significant implication in the adoption of technology in day-to-day operations in the UAE.
As seen earlier, there is a significant difference in perception of the barriers to e-commerce from both men’s and women’s perspectives. According to previous studies, it has been revealed that women perceive technical issues to be more important than organizational issues (Schniederjans & Cao, 2002). This implies that women take the technical problems with more seriousness than organizational issues. For instance, they perceived the compatibility of the technology to have a major impact on e-commerce and its application in an organization. On the other hand, men emphasize more the suitability as well as the fitness of e-commerce in an organization. This calls for having a more modified approach in the adoption of e-commerce in an organization.
The issue of gender has many implications in today’s business world. Several questions are raised as a result of gender-related differences. Several aspects in the workplace are to some extent affected by gender differences. For instance, the ability to use mathematics as well as fight stress in the workplace is usually different across the gender. In the traditional way of production, the business was dominated by men (Marchall, Michael & Elnora, 2006). Things have however changed. Women are now actively involved in the day-to-day business operations in the UAE. In the traditional economy, the main economic activities were manufacturing oriented which was more dominated by men (MacGregor & Vrazalic, 2007b). This has been modified to a more retail and service-based economy that has encouraged more participation of the female gender.
Several reasons can be the possible causes of the differences in perception of these barriers from different people of a different gender. For instance, females are seen to be more comfortable when giving instructions through informal instructions than their male counterparts (Schniederjans & Cao 2002). Most of the male managers for instance are seen to stress the use of power in management. On the other hand, the female managers are seen to stress the importance of interpersonal communication in day-to-day operations in an organization (Kolsaker & Payne, 2002). As a result of these differences, varying perceptions have also emanated from these differences.
It has also been realized that women are more reluctant to accommodate social business networks than their male counterparts (Gebler, 2011). As a result, women are not in a better position to attract investment partners or even partners who will be in a position to use such networks to attract technical assistance. This is despite the importance of such partnerships in the contemporary business world. As already noted, women are more concerned with technical difficulties. They take technical difficulties with more weight. On the other hand, male managers do not consider technical difficulties as a major intricacy.
Despite these barriers, several attempts have been made to mitigate these barriers. For instance, the technical barriers involving compatibility are expected to be minimal after the adoption of extensive markup language (Carter, 2000). By adopting this strategy, the problem associated with interoperability setbacks which have been a major barrier will be eliminated. This will promote the adoption of e-commerce in an organization to a greater extent.
From the above discussion, it is clear that there are significant gender differences in perception of the barriers of e-commerce. Women are more concerned about the technical barriers to e-commerce. They view the factors that are related to technology to pose a significant barrier in the attempt to adapt to e-commerce. On the other hand, men are more concerned about the suitability of e-commerce as well as its fitness in an organization. However, both perceptions are significant in promoting e-commerce.
This section of the research will address the following question: does gender play a role in the perception of barriers to e-commerce in the UAE?
“Modern economic roles and social status reflect both change continuity for women” (Powell, 2010). This is evident from the number of girls and women who have access to education today. As Rodgers & Maryanne (2003) observes “schools and universities are segregated, and levels of enrollment of girls and their performance are impressive”. Gender plays a significant role when it comes to the adoption of new technologies and business practices. The differences arise from the way men and women perceive the importance of a certain technology, its benefits, and its challenges. A study conducted in Australia by (MacGregor & Vrazalic, 2008) reveals that there is no major difference between the way women and men view e-commerce but reveals a difference in the way men and women react to technological problems facing their businesses.
Furthermore, women are more reluctant to accommodate social business networks than their male counterparts (Gebler, 2011). As a result, women are not in a better position to attract investment partners or even partners who will be in a position to use such networks to attract technical assistance. This is unfortunate considering the importance of such partnerships in the contemporary business world. The fact that women are more concerned with technical difficulties and take technical difficulties with more weight should be used to support them develop and adopt e-commerce as entrepreneurs and as consumers.
Despite all the challenges and issues arising, one of the biggest strengths possessed by women is the capacity to multitask. They are capable of managing various social and financial activities at the same time. Furthermore, women adapt too challenges easily and are able to move on. These strengths should be used for the development of e-commerce in the UAE. Previously, women were considered as homemakers with little involvement in matters that affect the economy of a country. The situation has changed in the UAE and women are increasingly finding themselves on the frontline on economical matters. As evident from developed nations such as the European region, it is evident that involving women equally had significant benefits to the development of business paradigms in a country.
As more people catch up with online trading, e-commerce is considered the future of business (UNCTAD, 2002). It is important that women be fully involved to ensure that the whole population benefits. Women entrepreneur make a big percentage of business people in the UAE, further proving the need for them to be involved in new business paradigms. Their level of improvement can be improved by ensuring that the legal structure if the country ensures equal opportunities to both men and women. The country should further ensure that the level of exposure for men and women is equal. This can be done by eliminating any form of discrimination in academic opportunities.
For e-commerce to benefit men and women equally, issues to be addressed include those facing women in this community and how they affect their involvement in e-commerce and other digital trends. One of them is lower levels of literacy among women compared to men. Literacy levels among men and women in the UAE still vary widely. This should be considered as one of the most significant challenges facing women, and slowing down the rate at which they embrace technology. It is also important for the UAE to keep track of how the situation has improved in the last few years and how it can even be made better to allow equal exposure, involvement and opportunity for women.
Furthermore, it is clear that religion plays a role in the way different trends are adopted among men and women. A majority of people in the UAE practice Islam. The religion has for long been criticized for limiting the level of exposure among women. They have limited interactions with different aspects of society such as education, media and intellectual discussions, just to mention a few. Several parameters controlled by religion such as dressing styles hinder the growth of some industries such as beauty, which is among the most traded in e-commerce sites in other countries. It is important that the country reviews such trends and religious practices to ensure that they do not stop the country from reaping the benefits of e-commerce in their economy.
Cultural differences further need to be addressed. In many developing and conservative countries, “females appear to be less welcome in social business networks often resulting in a reduced ability to use network partners to gain finance or attract technical or marketing assistance” (Powell, 2010). Addressing such challenges will be significant as the region strategically sets itself up for significant benefits that come with e-commerce.
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