According to a McKinsey report, women in the MENA region contribute only 18% of the GDP and represent 24% of the workforce.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum, the MENA region has the worst Economic Participation and Opportunity gap at 60.9%. According to the same report, the progress is so slow that it’d take 142.4 years to close that gap. In the Political Empowerment sub-index, women’s Political Empowerment is 12.1%, the lowest worldwide.
According to the World Bank, women make up 48% of the population in the MENA region. Genuinely, they’re the other half of society. Yet, their potential is still largely untapped.
What do the numbers say, the challenges, and how do we change the situation? Let’s see.
The Numbers According to the World Bank.
- Men dominate the workforce: the labor force participation rate for women is 19.8% compared to 73.2% for men.
- Women are less secure in their jobs than men but vulnerable employment witnessed some improvement in the last two decades. The current rates are 24.9% for women and 24.5% for men.
- Men dominate the political arena: women occupy the least amount of parliamentary seats at 18.3%, compared to the 25.6% global average.
- Fewer women hold managerial positions than men: out of eight MENA countries, women’s representation in senior and middle management positions is 31.1%.
- Men use technology more than women: men use the internet to pay bills or buy goods more than women. MENA women are among the least to use the internet to buy something.
- Women do more free work than men: women do unpaid domestic and care work in all MENA countries more than in any other region in the free world.
- According to the data collected between 2010 and 2020, men own more businesses than women. It may imply that it’s harder for women to start a business than men.
- It’s hard for women to open a bank account: 38% of women and 56.8% of men own a bank account, lower than the global average. Also, it may mean that it’s harder for women to live on their own without being married.
- Women are less illiterate than men: the adult literacy gap between men and women is 12.4%, below the global average.
- More men own a house than women, either separately or jointly.
Challenges to Women’s Empowerment in the MENA Region
For starters, cultural and religious norms allow men to inherit twice as much as women. In the context of culture, a working woman is an anomaly since women must stay home to raise the children. Imagine how hard it’s for women to attain a high political and economic position.
It’s not only difficult to change a culture, but it’s also expensive. Hundreds of women’s rights and equality organizations are working tirelessly to that end. However, it may take human resources, investment, and technology to help women enter the workforce. Educating and training women to join the employment is challenging enough. But first, social and cultural changes must take place.
Involving More Men
In a nutshell, men overwork to compensate for women’s absence from the workforce. The workload will divide between both genders, and the production will increase. It boils down to equilibrium, the idea that both men and women are equal human beings capable of fulfilling and doing arduous jobs.
It’ll be a gradual change, it may take decades of dedicated work, but it’s inevitable. Women’s exclusion from the workforce in the MENA region impacts the economy negatively, and the data prove it.
In conclusion, let’s extend an invitation to all women and men who want to accelerate the progress. By joining the MENA Women Business Club in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the Development Agency of Italy, UN Women and FAO, you stand a better chance. You can connect, network, and grow in a welcoming, encouraging environment.
Join today and get the tools, connections, and resources to help you overcome your current situation and succeed despite the odds.