How do you increase GDP by 20% in MENA region? #IWD2015

If, during the next 15 years, the participation of women in the workforce across the Middle East and North Africa simply reaches that of two-thirds of men—around 60 percent—it has the potential to spike regional GDP by 20 percent or more.- Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director for World Economic Forum in the McKinsey Report

How does the MENA region increase its GDP by 20 percent?  (Hint: One out of two people know–give or take a few million.)  Earlier this week on March 8th, the world celebrated — or simply noted– International Women’s Day in 2015.  We say noted because very few men write about the impact of women on society, politics, and economy.  This statement is not limited to the Middle East & North Africa.

In fact, no region has a monopoly on the oppression of women.

  • Socially and physically: Note thriving pornography industries in North America, South America, Japan, and Europe amounting to over . Pornography produced over $13.3 billion dollars for U.S. entrepreneurs and middlemen in 2006.  Meanwhile, women in Egypt are tackling the issue of sexual harassment: 17% of Egyptian women were harassed by security forces.
  • Politically: Note limits women’s ability to vote on their reproductive rights–worldwide),
  • Legally: Arabia isn’t even within basic standards of international law regarding human trafficking, according to data mapped from Women Stats database.
  • Economically: Worldwide women’s wage inequality in conjunction with low level workforce participation in Arab world, see below) or business-wise (note the disproportionate number of female CEOs).

With these observations, PITAPOLICY purposely waited for articles on women’s progress written by men in their fields because the conversation on progress requires all actors.  We already know women are a powerful resource, as documented by the thousands of well-articulated articles and studies led by women.  We are just waiting for their male counterparts to catch up in this documentation process.

Even for women who succeed socio-economically, obstacles pop up on the roads towards progress.  World famous Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, shared the business challenges she still faces as a woman in her interview with Alain Elkann, columnist for the Italian Daily:

There are other professions that are very difficult, but architecture is particularly difficult because your career is reliant on the people you work with, and that’s the first hurdle. The second hurdle is the people you work with as a client. You have no control over the developer or the economics.~Zaha Hadid [click here to continue.]


Economic research continues to support the case for empower women as gender equity promotes economic growth for Arab countries and their neighbors.  Case in point, read Hafed Alghwell’s summary:

Economic research has demonstrated conclusively over the past few decades that more economically empowered women, invest far more in the education and health of their children It is the single most important factor in reducing poverty in developing countries. Many studies have also shown serious GDP per capita losses that can be directly linked to gender-gaps in labor markets. In the UAE, for example, the GDP would increase by as much as 12 percent and in Egypt by as much as 34 percent, if women’s labor participation were to rise to the level of men.

From 1975, the ratio of females to males enrolled in tertiary education tripled to 112 percent in 2010. In fact, eight Middle East and North Africa countries have a “reverse gender gap” in education at the tertiary level; reverse gender gaps also show up in primary education.

So how shall we conclude this blogpost on International Women’s Day?  We won’t– because the above discussion needs to continue beyond March 2015 in parliament and at the dinner table.  Everywhere.  Not just in the MENA region.

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Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics)

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