Empowering Arab Women in the Workforce
The notion of empowerment refers to the ability to make choices and is inherently bound with the condition of dis-empowerment; it refers to a process whereby those who have been denied the ability to make choices obtain such an ability. Thus, empowerment refers to a process of change, a process that is undeniably taking place within the MENA region.
Even though the majority of Arab countries are mostly patriarchal, the dynamic has been noticeably changing, especially over the two decades, as the number of female university graduates within the region continues to increase and more women join the workforce.
To ensure that the strengths of this growing number of educated women translate well within the workplace, it is important to have a strategy in place that ensures that skills of women can be recognized and utilized effectively within the work environment.
Policies and Work Environment
In order to ensure that women can be truly empowered within the workplace, there must be high-level support and direct top-level policies that promote gender equality. In order to advance equality and inclusion, it is important to ensure that all policies are gender-sensitive and identify factors that impact women and men differently.
Recruitment and Benefits
It is also crucial to ensure that the work environment is free from gender discrimination. This includes ensuring equal pay and benefits for work of equal value and striving to pay appropriate wages to all women and men. Similarly, it is important to ensure that an organizations recruitment process is gender-sensitive; proactively recruiting and appointing women to managerial and executive positions and to the corporate board of directors is imperative.
Flexible Work Options
In order to fully empower women, organizations should also offer flexible work options, as well as leave and re-entry opportunities to positions of equal pay and status. It is essential to support access to child and dependent care by providing cost effective services, resources, and information. Respecting the rights of workers and their right to time off for medical care for themselves, as well as those that depend on them, is also important to enhance women's ability to work effectively without having to sacrifice their other responsibilities.
Women's security at work should also be a priority; security staff and managers should be trained to recognize violence against women as well as have a full understanding of laws and company policies on labor and sexual exploitation.
The principles laid out by UN Women and UNGC also highlight the importance of community engagement; promoting inclusion and leveraging influence to advocate for gender equality with community leaders can significantly enhance women's empowerment.
Lastly, upon incorporating all these principles, it is essential to establish benchmarks that quantify the inclusion of women at all levels; measuring and reporting on progress, both internally and externally, using data that is disaggregated by sex.
The empowerment of women in the workforce has multiple benefits, not only for women and their families, but also for communities and organizations. Companies that fail to utilize the skills and knowledge of women within the MENA region will fail to achieve their full capacity.
How we help
MENTOR's HR management advisory solutions and employee development programs can help promote women empowerment across the MENA region.