Get Your Facts Straight: Women In The MENA Workplace

A discussion on career standing, gender equality and potential solutions.

learn more about Suhail Al-Masri

By Suhail Al-Masri

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It's extremely obvious that women in the MENA region have come a long way as successful professionals. Life in the workplace has become much more diversified as an increased number of women have made their presence felt in many industries and professions. For several decades now, women have fought for equality in the workplace. Today, the female workforce has expanded with exponential strength, and thus has extreme importance in the professional world.


The Status of Working Women in the Middle East survey December 2014 has revealed that while 60% of women in the Middle East find it hard to find good job opportunities, 51% of them consider recruitment and selection opportunities to be made regardless of gender. Similarly, 56% of female respondents around the region state that job offers are made based on experience and qualifications, with gender playing no role.

In terms of treatment, 51% of women working in mixed gender environments believe that men and women are treated equally in their workplace, though 59% state that some employees get preferential or better treatment than others. When it comes to appreciation, the majority (61%) of women working in mixed gender workplaces believe that recognition and rewards are handed out based on performance, and regardless of gender.

Similar to their Western counterparts, women in the Middle East have made great strides in the workplace, but inequality persists. Indeed, there's still a gender gap that needs to be rectified. According to the Status of Working Women in the Middle East survey, 43% of working women in the Middle East region believe they are paid less than their male counterparts.


Gender stereotypes in the Middle East seem to be still hard to break. As a society, we need to continue to encourage people to go beyond stereotypes and recognize the contributions that each individual, male or female, can make to the workplace.The Status of Working Women in the Middle East survey shows that the majority of women- a whopping 77%- in the region still report to a male manager, with more men than women in the workplace (according to 58% of respondents). The survey indicates that only a small proportion (1%) of respondents hold CEO/Partner/President/Vice President/CFO/COO/General Manager positions. A third (34%) of working women in the Middle East believe that women have a lower chance of getting promoted than men do. Indeed, these claim that their company favors promoting men over women- a feeling especially strong in Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Workplace equality is considered by 67% of women in the Middle East to have reached the same levels as Western countries. This is notably seen in Tunisia, where 53% of women believe their workplace is comparable to those in Western countries, to a large extent. MENA-wide, women believe that the challenges they face in the workplace are less opportunity for job promotions (46%), a stressful and demanding work environment (40%), and a lack or insufficiency of job training and coaching (34%). Their top three reasons for wanting to change jobs are better salary (70%), better benefits (29%), and more opportunities for career advancement (25%).

Rather than telling women to be more confident and ambitious, it is more important to talk about how workplaces need to adapt to achieve adequate levels of equality. This way everyone can strike a better balance between working and spending time with family, friends and their community. Generally speaking, we can say that these are the most common benefits of gender equality:


1. GENDER EQUALITY ATTRACTS TOP TALENT A workplace that is equally appealing for women and men will provide businesses with access to the entire talent pool. As women are increasingly as educated as men (sometimes even more), a workplace that is not attractive to women risks losing the best talents to competitors.

2. GENDER EQUALITY CAN REDUCE EXPENSES As both women and men are more likely to remain with an organization they view as fair, employee turnover for an organization offering gender equality can be reduced, thereby decreasing the high expense of recruitment.

3. COMPANIES WITH GENDER EQUALITY PERFORM BETTER A considerable body of research suggests a link between gender equality and better organizational performance. While there are a range of reasons to explain this link, one factor is that diversity brings together varied perspectives, produces a more holistic analysis of the issues an organization faces, and spurs greater effort, leading to improved decision-making.

4. GENDER EQUALITY IMPROVES NATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY AND COMPETITIVENESS The World Economic Forum has found a strong correlation between a country's competitiveness and how it educates and uses its female talent. It states: "...empowering women means a more efficient use of a nation's human talent endowment and... reducing gender inequality enhances productivity and economic growth. Over time, therefore, a nation's competitiveness depends, among other things, on whether and how it educates and utilizes its female talent."

Gender equality is achieved when people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man. Many countries worldwide have made significant progress towards gender equality in recent decades. However, women continue to earn less than men and are less likely to advance their careers as far as men. The aim of gender not 3 equality in the workplace is to achieve apply broadly equal outcomes for women and men. To achieve this requires basic elements:

  • workplaces to provide equal pay for women and men for work of equal or comparable value
  • the removal of barriers to the full and equal participation of women in theworkforce
  • full and genuine access to all occupations and industries, including to leadership roles and senior managerial positions


Achieving gender equality is important for workplaces not only because it is 'fair' and 'the right thing to do', it is also vitally important to the bottom line of a business and to the productivity of our region. Women and men come into the workplace with equivalent levels of aspiration. And today more than ever, women are achieving their professional goals and making vital contributions to the successes individual businesses and the overall economy. They are embracing their careers wholeheartedly, as can be seen from the high levels of engagement that these women feel towards their jobs.

The Status of Working Women in the Middle East survey reveals that women in the region consider a lack of opportunities to improve their professional skills (46%) and not having enough opportunities to relax or socialize (38%) to be challenges in their life. It's also considered hard to lead a healthy lifestyle (according to 32% of women), and many of them (30%) do not feel connected enough within their industry. When we know that working women in the Middle East consider their main source of happiness to be having a successful career (55%), balancing the scales of equality will offer women an equal chance to contribute both at home and in the workplace, thereby enhancing their individual well-being and that of society.

Suhail Al-Masri

VP of Sales,

Suhail Al-Masri is the VP of Employer Solutions at Al-Masri has more than 20 years of experience in sales leadership, consultative sales, account management, marketing management, and operations management. His mission at goes in line with the company's mission to empower people with the tools and knowledge to build their lifestyles of choice.

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