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The Business Case For The Integration Of Women In Labor Markets We must free half of Arabic societies from constraints that prevent women from contributing to the prosperity and growth of Arab economies, and shield the countries of the region against risks and causes of chronic de-development.

By Lahcen Haddad

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Achieving equity for women is not just a matter of morality or politics; nor is it solely related to the need for social justice, achieved through a gender approach to social issues. In fact, it is an economic necessity par excellence.

Indeed, societies that succeed in more fully and effectively integrating women into the workforce and promoting them to leadership positions achieve significant economic gains, both quantitative and qualitative, when compared to societies that lag behind in achieving equality. In addition, a study by Catalyst, an organization working for decades with large companies to achieve gender parity within administrations and businesses, revealed that Fortune 500 companies promoting women to leadership positions achieve shareholder returns 35% higher than companies with the lowest rates of female participation in leadership positions.

This means that women bring different managerial skills and qualifications to leadership, enriching business management with added value that translates into additional profits for shareholders. However, this does not mean that the benefits women bring when they reach a leadership position are intrinsic abilities they have as women, but rather that they bring a unique added value to their work, because of their distinct social, economic, and cultural experience in society. This experience is forged through a long process of dealing with a cultural environment marked by stereotypes and patriarchal and sexist "norms," a challenge that gives a particular flavor to success and results in unique leadership skills, and brings forth significantly enriching management skills.

In a report called Women as Levers of Change: Unleashing the Power of Women to Transform Male-Dominated Industries, Foreign Policy Analytics states that "the top-quartile companies with the highest percentage of women in executive management roles are, on average, 47% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile". Moreover, companies that adopt a gender-based integration policy reduce the negative impact on climate, significantly develop their social responsibility, and create an internal culture based on inclusion, diversity, and parity (ibid.). These aspects benefit productivity, customer relations, human resources motivation, and overall profits.

On the other hand, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled How Advancing Women's Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth concludes that it is possible to add $12 trillion to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 through improving the integration of women in the labor market and achieving gender parity, mainly by reducing gaps in leadership positions and salaries, among other measures. Countries and companies that invest in integrating women into the workforce, that do not perpetuate wage gaps between men and women, and that give women opportunities to hold positions of responsibility and management, will observe remarkable development in their GDP.

GDP grows when capital goods, labor markets, technology, and human capital develop. In this regard, many countries, particularly in the Arab World, rely on capital goods (i.e., investment via fixed capital) and import technological solutions, but they do not, with few exceptions, take the appropriate measures to open the labor market to women, nor invest in the quality of the human capital in general. The rate of women's integration into the labor market in Arab countries does not exceed 19%, compared to the global rate of 47%, and to that of low- and middle-income countries, which is 46%, according to the Arab NGO Development Network study, Drivers of Low Female labor Force Participation in the Arab Region - Political-Economy vs Culture.

This means that Arab countries will not see their economies develop at a level comparable to Western, Asian, African, or American countries, as four-fifths of women in the Arab world do not participate in the economic cycle. The factors are multiple, including cultural, legislative, and political sources of inhibition and hindrance. But in my opinion, most of the factors are economic. When women are not entrusted with higher responsibilities in public administration, the injustice in terms of promotion has a negative impact on women's salaries. Thus, even in public administrations that are supposed to treat men and women equally, discrimination is structural: basic salaries are similar, but more men benefit from promotion opportunities than women, creating a flagrant wage injustice.

The private sector in the Arab world knows even greater injustice, where women are preferred over men for certain manual jobs (such as textiles, agribusiness, etc.), but their salaries are below the minimum wage, and they are not promoted to supervisor or line manager positions. This makes the attractiveness of the private sector (a source of employment in all free economies) low in Arab countries. Add to this the fact that technical jobs in sectors requiring advanced engineering skills are reserved for men rather than women; women are not only directed towards the service sector, but the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is considered a man's affair in many Arab and other Global South countries. Thus, the reduced presence of women in technical leadership positions is due to the weakness of the supply (number of female engineers, for example), as well as demand (the belief that men are more suited for complex field-based technical jobs).

Therefore, what is required of Arab countries is to improve the attractiveness of the private sector by focusing on wage equality, respecting the minimum wage, and rewarding companies that place women in middle and senior management positions; investing in improving working conditions by providing specific facilities for women, such as private breastfeeding or childcare facilities in the workplace, as well as special sanitary facilities that are more suited to women's menstrual needs, will improve the attractiveness of the workplace for women. It is also necessary to enact legislation requiring companies, especially large ones, to publish annual reports on reducing gaps between men and women at all levels. The measurements for this indicator would be numbers of men and women in the company, equity in salaries, how many women occupy line manager, middle management, and senior management positions etc. Membership in boards of trustees or administration is another indicator to report on a regular basis.

Arab countries must leverage the great potential represented by women, especially in an era where education is widespread, and access to university is broadened. Bridging the gap between Arab countries and other countries will take years, but it can only be achieved with proactive policies including affirmative action, investment in the attractiveness of leading economic sectors, and promoting wage equality as well as equity in access, retention, and promotion. At the end of the day, the integration of women is an economic necessity that will contribute in the long term about two to three additional points of economic growth in Arab countries. This opportunity should not be wasted by sterile debates about the role of women in Arab societies that have lasted far too long. We must free half of Arabic societies from constraints that prevent women from contributing to the prosperity and growth of Arab economies, and shield the countries of the region against risks and causes of chronic de-development.

Lahcen Haddad

Minister of Tourism (2012-2016), Government of Morocco

Lahcen Haddad has been Minister of Tourism with the Government of Morocco between 2012 and 2016. As Minister, he has overseen the shift of Morocco towards becoming a leading destination in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East and a reference country with regards to sustainable tourism.

Before joining the Government in January 2012, Dr. Haddad worked as an international expert in strategic studies, democracy, governance and development, and as a certified expert in strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, diversity and entrepreneurship. His involvement in programs and studies of national and international importance endowed him with a mastery of geostrategic issues, economic development, public policy, international relations and issues of governance at local and international levels.

Haddad also taught as a university professor for over 20 years with institutions such as Indiana University, Saint Thomas Aquinas College in New York, the School of International Training in Vermont, Mohamed V University in Rabat and Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. At the World Learning School of International Training, he was for ten years the Academic Director for the SIT Morocco Program and area thought leader for the Academic Directors community.

Haddad’s publications in English, Arabic, French and Spanish, both academic and journalese, span the topic areas of geo-strategy, social sciences, development, entrepreneurship, communication and management as well as topics of general interest.

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