Labour participation by women in Middle Eastern labor markets  at 27 per cent is weak, according to Nadereh Chamlou, Senior Advisor at the office of Chief Economist Mena Region, who spoke at the opening panel of the 3rd Arab Women Leadership Forum in Dubai.
However, while women witnessed substantial progress in the last 20 years, total involvement has remained small and challenging, Nadereh further remarked.
Female labour force participation rates in the Mena region are well below the 39 per cent rate in Low and Middle Income countries worldwide. According to a report by the World Bank, women are also underrepresented in politics with only 9 per cent of the seats in parliaments.
“Women achieved a higher level in education and today we are seeing more females in the workforce, but their presence is still weak as for every three women eligible to work only one is found in the labour market.”
To overcome such weak female presence in the market, Nadereh called for enhancing women leadership. “Placing women at a top decision-making position can help promote them within society and economy,” she said.
Some studies did show that higher participation of women on company boards would enhance discussions and offer new perspectives on various issues, and ultimately lower risk in decision-making. “Women do understand their society well and are good at risk management which, will would be an asset to management,” she added.
Nadereh argued that women leadership would be ideal in installing the best mechanism to eliminate many social, economic, political and education risks, which ultimately leads to founding long-term economic stability.
Sara Akbar shared with the forum her experience as CEO of Kuwait Energy. She stressed that persistence and determination remain key tools for women to be strongly involved in the decision making process. “In today’s labour market, we are not surprised to see the participation of women in every sector from the service industry to high-level management and we need to promote this involvement,” Sara added.
She’s happy with how women have developed in Gulf countries, and said that over the past decade women empowerment in the workforce has marked a dramatic social shift in the Gulf Region. “It has occurred, remarkably, without any upheavals and has generally been well received by men and women alike.”
She further noted that such trend needs to continue and grow to reach boardrooms and change “corporate cultures by engaging this new type of workforce.”
Sara also sees the rise of economic empowerment for women having social implications. “A profound frustration for women engaging in the labour market is balancing their social and professional lives.”
“Many women are forced to choose between motherhood and careers while some address this need by balancing their roles and juggling both responsibilities of family and career,” Sara added.
Increasing women’s participation in the labor market to male levels will boost economic and social live, she concluded.