Emirati women subconsciously display awkward body language when Emirati men are around in their workplace because they view their counterparts as potential husbands, revealed student research findings.
A group of four business students from Zayed University's Dubai campus revealed their research findings last week after undertaking a study of Emirati women's body language at work.
"We wanted to know whether Emirati women act differently in front of Emirati men and men from other nationalities," said Shaikha Abdul Rahman. "The difference was they were more stiff and awkward in front of Emirati men, but not with expatriate men."
The group conducted field research by way of a handful of employee interviews and work meeting observations at a national firm and distributed more than 60 surveys to Emirati women.
"It's interesting because some women said the awkwardness happens more outside the workplace because they have become used to professional dealings with men," said Shaikha.
"Others said they feel stiff and awkward in front of Emirati men at work because they see them as potential husbands so they try to look good in front of them."
Asma Mohammad Al Joker added the awkwardness and stiffness in the candidates' body language happens subconsciously as women tend to keep their distance from their male counterparts.
The groups also found Emirati women are more relaxed around expatriate males in the workplace, engaging in chit-chat and general pleasantries, while with Emirati men, verbal contact was mutually kept to a minimum in some cases.
"Some of the reasons we got from women for keeping their distance is because the Emirati community is small and the man might know her brother or relatives," said Asma.
"Therefore people are afraid of gossip and the spreading of rumours."
She added their search turned up virtually no literature on the group's chosen topic, which encouraged the students to dig deeper.
"We found there is a direct relationship between the effects and use of body language and the performance in any organisation."
Alia Ali Al Saeedi said the group's observations revealed the more interaction an Emirati woman had the less likely she was to freeze in front of Emirati men.
"We found the more experienced Emirati women are, the more open they are with Emirati men," she said.
"An older woman with more experience [of interacting with others] treated both male and female adults like her children."
The group agreed that they too feel awkward and shy around Emirati men and believe a lifetime of social and educational segregation plays a role.
"When we go out to malls we talk freely, but when an Emirati man walks by we stop talking and continue only when he's gone," said Shaikha.
"I don't know why though. It's a subconscious thing because we're not used to mixing, especially since we are segregated in education and then all of a sudden we are thrown together in the workplace."
Alia said there is also a cultural element. Emirati women are generally not accustomed to dealing with men who are not their fathers or brothers.
The group, however, agrees that times are changing and that the mentality of the new generation of Emiratis is evolving.