An increased women workforce could add $2.7trn to Mena economy

The market power of women’s increased participation in the workforce could add an estimated $2.7 trillion to the economy on the Middle East and North Africa by 2025. This potential is made possible by the increased number of women being educated and going to university, and a shift in laws and culture, senior executives and policy-makers said while participating at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa that kick-started in Jordan Saturday.

Some favoured more government intervention, including in parental leave policies, to accelerate change. “The way business currently works, is not friendly for the family,” said Princess Dina Mired (pictured), President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). “Usually the woman takes the cut.” As a solution, she suggested that “society should support the family more,” and mandate better parental leave, including for men.

A survey revealed during the panel showed that 66 percent of employees “believe that governments should intervene in private-sector companies and set targets for gender diversity.” Hani Ashkar, Senior Partner, Middle East, PwC, agreed. “We’ve forced a target of 50 percent of women at the entry level, and it has changed the company,” he said. But he acknowledged that shortcomings remain. “We’re still very light at the top. That’s an issue,” he said.

There was, however, no consensus on targets. “I struggle with the idea of setting targets, said Mariam Al Foudery, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Agility. “We should be counting, tracking and publishing how many women we have in the workforce. But mandate numbers? No.” She said she favours a more enlightened route. “The day I went to the hospital to give birth was the day Agility made me Vice-President,” she said. “That show of support was invaluable.” Ultimately what’s needed is a widely held cultural shift, said Sofana Rabea Dahlan, Founder and Managing Partner, Sofana Rabea Dahlan Law Firm. “When I graduated as a lawyer in 1995, women were not allowed to study or practice law in Saudi Arabia,” she said. One government employee told her she wouldn’t get a certificate “in a 100 years.” But, 25 years later, there are 270 female lawyers in the Kingdom, and renewal of certificates can be done online. “We have to be patient with our people,” she said.

Source from: The Peninsula