Female bankers in the Middle East

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Just how easy is it for Western women bankers to land jobs in the growing financial centres of Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar?

Not very, according to some headhunters, who weren't overly keen on being drawn on the subject. "This is too close to the bone," was a common response, although we were told by one London-based headhunter that he'd recently placed a woman and there had been "no issues".

Scratch the surface, however, and things look a little different. "They're not constrained by any of the employment legislation that we have here," says another London finance headhunter, who works with the Middle East. "They have no hesitation about describing the person they want for a role in gender, age or racial terms."

He adds that junior and mid-ranking roles in the region increasingly go to female expats, but Western women find it particularly hard to land senior jobs which typically go to local men.

Things may be changing. Dubai hirers in particular are said to be increasingly prepared to ditch gender-related stipulations, simply to get staff through the door. Russell Adam, a consultant at search firm Akamai Financial, says the culture in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi is "very liberal and international", and that female professionals will have "no problem" doing business as a result.

Riyadh and Jeddah are, however, a different issue.

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