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Women in the private sector in the Middle East and North Africa 

From March 20, 2014 until March 27, 2014

Participacion and empowerment From 24 Monday to  27 Thursday of March 2014. CÓRDOBA

In partnership with the Swedish Institute in Alexandria and Wilton Park, Casa Árabe hosts from the 24th to the 27th of  March, this conference in Cordoba. This conference, as scheduled in Wilton Park's annual conference programming, will identify the opportunities and constraints in women’s economic involvement and economic empowerment in the private sector in the MENA region.

Sessions are private and closed to the public

Gender discrimination, an economic burden

UN Women’s annual report 2011-2012 highlights gender discrimination as a vast economic burden. Almost one billion women worldwide fall short of their potential economic contribution due to gender based barriers in decision making and leadership, labour markets, financial services and education and training. Evidence shows that countries with greater equality are more competitive and show faster growth. In 2012, the World Bank projected that elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in the workplace could increase productivity per worker by up to 40 per cent.

Situation in the MENA region

For countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), investments in human capital, increased levels of female educational attainment and indications of delayed age of marriage have not yet translated substantially into increases in women’s participation in economic life.

In the private sector, the OECD estimates that by further enabling and fostering women the region could increase its GDP growth per capita by as much as 25%. Only 1.2% of managers in the MENA region are female, compared to an 18.6% average worldwide, and one in eight women in the region lead their own business, compared to one in three men. At present, women’s level of employment is much higher in the public sector across the MENA, which ESCWA reports is related to educated urban women’s preference for the better opportunities the public sector offers for a work-life balance.

Countries undergoing transition in the region also face additional challenges of rebuilding economies and infrastructure, revitalising industry and finding jobs for the growing mass of unemployed. The development of strong economies that enable all citizens to enhance their livelihoods is crucial.


Focusing on Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and the Palestinian Occupied Territories, the conference aims to:

  • identify the opportunities and constraints in women’s economic involvement, particularly in private sector employment in the Middle East;
  • examine pathways to women’s economic empowerment and share lessons learned – examples include widows or lone women breadwinning for their families, and women’s entrepreneurship;
  • gain greater understanding of the needs and perspectives of local activists, religious and secular, for promoting greater gender equality in the economy;
  • and identify potential areas of co-operation between government, business and civil society, and best practice in economic engagement in the private sector and promotion of inclusivity.


Women in the private sector in the Middle East and North Africa