GCC women power through glass ceiling

Updated 15 April 2015

GCC women power through glass ceiling

Women in GCC countries have broken through the glass ceiling and have established their credentials in traditionally male-dominated disciplines. According to a report released on Wednesday by Al-Masah Capital women are impacting positively on the social, political, cultural, and economic aspects of their respective societies.
Although women constitute a lower percentage of the population, they have a higher enrollment rate in higher education than men. The report underscores the need, however, for women to have a commensurate participation in the workforce where it is still at a relatively low level.
“Women have a higher literacy rate,” says Shailesh Dash, CEO of Al-Masah Capital. “But we are seeing them become a driving force contrary to the prevailing image. This is especially gratifying when you factor in their dual roles. Lack of motivation, poor job opportunities, discrimination at the work place, and pressure of domestic duties do impede the overall development of women.”
Education for women has been on the front burner for years in the UAE. In early 2013, the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia appointed 30 women to the Saudi Shoura Council. The council has also approved a law that permits women to apply for real estate loans, a right previously reserved for men. Furthermore, most GCC countries have ratified the UN convention on the elimination of discrimination against women. These initiatives have all contributed to women holding command positions.
One of the conscious decisions women are making is to marry later and obtain a degree and pursue a career. As a result they are also becoming wealthier. As per a study, women in the Middle East controlled over a third of the wealth in the region. A total of 105 UHNW females held nearly $22 billion of the wealth in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Their wealth would grow further as would their acumen and skills if GCC governments and its populace maintained efforts to remove cultural constraints on women so that the region could unlock the potential of their highly educated but still relatively underutilized female talent.
Governments are taking women power more seriously. Saudi Arabia is developing a women-only industrial city at Hofuf for female workers in a bid to provide a working environment that complies with the Kingdom’s customs. The Hofuf development is expected to create about 5,000 jobs across industries such as textiles, pharmaceuticals, and food processing, with women-run firms and production lines.
In places like Dubai and Doha, the female labor workforce has increased 3.7x and 3.1x respectively. The report indicates that these are not just support jobs but GCC women are now pursuing careers in the industry of their choice. According to the Dubai Statistics Center, business is the preferred field of study of 33% tertiary female students in the Emirate.
Dash adds, “Female enrolment in engineering has increased six-fold since 2011 in Dubai while law has shown a spike of 62% and one in every four startups is led by a woman”
According to the World Bank, the GCC’s literacy rate is 93%, on a par with or even higher than other developing countries across the world. The literacy rate was an estimated 87% a decade ago.
Within the GCC, literacy rates are high in countries such as Qatar (97%), Kuwait (96%), Bahrain (95%) and Saudi Arabia (94%). Oman, with a literacy rate of 87%, ranks the lowest among GCC countries.
Al-Masah’s conclusions indicate women are competitively positioned against their male colleagues on parameters such as working hours, training and development, recruitment and selection and benefits.
While the private sector accounts for 80% of the total women employment in the GCC, Arab women have made their presence felt in government, management, and family businesses.
It speaks for their capabilities that on the Forbes list of most powerful Arab women in the Middle East, the GCC constituted more than 50% in all major categories.
Dash lauds the forward thinking attitude of the governments and their enlightened approach to women and specialized education. “This is the key to the arrival of women on the scene,” he says, adding that it is because women have been empowered that the region is seeing a new dimension of talent across the board.”
Dash concludes by saying that as the trend continues and gathers more momentum, women will be seen at the helm in far more numbers in the coming years.


Although the list of highly successful women in the GCC is extensive there are some inspirational stories that can serve as a guide for young women in the region for which reason they are worth sharing.

* Rawya Saud Al-Busaidi (minister of higher education) is the first Omani woman to receive a ministerial portfolio. Rawya got this post in 2004. She is also the president of the council of Sultan Qaboos University.

* Raja Easa Al-Gurg is a renowned businesswoman in the Middle East. She is the managing director of Easa Saleh Al-Gurg Group LLC (ESAG) and a board member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She has played a critical role in ESAG’s growth. Al-Gurg is a prominent speaker at various international conferences and round tables.

* Shaikha K. Al-Bahar heads the National Bank of Kuwait. She also serves on the board of the International Bank of Qatar and as director of Mobile Telecommunications Company KSC. Al-Bahar received her education at the Harvard Business School, Stanford University and Duke University.

* In 2003, Mariam Abdullah Al-Jaber was appointed the first district attorney in Qatar.

* In 2005, the Kuwaiti government amended its election laws to extend political rights to women.

* In May 2009, four women won seats in the Kuwaiti Parliament, marking a historic moment for Gulf women.

* In 2006, Bahrain appointed Mona Jassem Al-Kawari the first female judge at the Grand Civil Court.

* In 2008, UAE lawyer and Shariah specialist Kholoud Ahmad Al-Daheri was appointed primary judge at the Abu Dhabi Judiciary Department.

* In 2010, Saudi Arabia’s justice minister announced plans to allow female lawyers to represent women in matters related to divorce, child custody, and other family issues.

Saudi-led coalition tightens the screws on Houthi smuggling routes

Iranian-backed militants ride on the back of a police patrol truck after participating in a Houthi gathering in Sanaa, as Yemen’s legitimage government tightens security measures. (Reuters)
Updated 13 min 43 sec ago

Saudi-led coalition tightens the screws on Houthi smuggling routes

  • Security measures intensified around main sea and land entry posts in Yemen to prevent Iran arms supply to rebels

AL-MUKALLA: The Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s internationally recognized government have intensified security measures around main sea and land entry posts in Yemen to prevent Iran from smuggling arms to Houthis in Yemen.

Over the last couple of months, hundreds of Yemeni coast guard soldiers have been deployed off the Yemeni coasts on the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, as the coalition tightens security checks at the Shihen border crossing in the western province of Mahra.
Dozens of army and security checkpoints have also stepped up the inspection of vehicles that cross into Houthi-controlled territories in northern Yemen. Local army officers and experts say those measures have yielded considerable results, as several arms shipments have been intercepted before reaching the Houthis.

Yemen alert
In the Red Sea, local officers said Yemeni troops had consolidated their presence on the island of Perim near Bab Al-Mandab Strait, and off the coasts of the provinces of Hodeida and Taiz.
The coast guard initiated a hotline for receiving alerts from local fishermen, who were urged to report any suspected movements of boats in the Red Sea.
“Local fishermen are now helping us monitor the sea. They alert us about any ship or a boat suspected of carrying weapons to Houthis,” a coast guard officer in the Red Sea Khokha district told Arab News on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, adding that coast guard forces had increased sea patrols around Zuqar and Perim Islands with the same aim.
The two islands are located at the southern entrance of the Red Sea, where arms shipments from Iran are thought to pass through.
The same officer said that three ships carrying a large amount of explosive materials heading to Houthis had been intercepted at sea in the last three months.
Last week, the commander of the Yemeni coast guard in the western coast announced seizing a ship carrying 20 tons of urea fertilizer. The material can be used for making bombs.
The investigation with the three Yemeni fishermen captured on the ship showed that they received cargo from unidentified smugglers near the Somali port city of Zeila and were asked to give it to the Houthis for several thousand Saudi riyals.
“A big smuggling network is involved,” the officer who learned about the investigation said.
“We are confident that the Iranian smugglers do not directly hand over shipments to the Yemenis. All directions come from big smugglers in Yemen. We have learnt that Iranian smugglers pretending to be fishermen are active near Somalia.”


• The coast guard initiated a hotline for receiving alerts from local fishermen.

• Three ships carrying a large amount of explosive materials heading to Houthis ‘had been intercepted at sea in the last three months.’

• Yemen’s coast guard authority crumbled in late 2014 when Houthis seized control of Sanaa and expanded across the country, triggering a civil war.

In the southeastern province of Hadramout, dozens of soldiers have been deployed across a vast and porous coastline at suspected entry points for arms and drugs.
Maj. Gen. Faraj Salmeen Al-Bahsani, the governor of Hadramout, said the deployment was the last phase of a plan aimed at securing the province’s coasts.
“The coalition has asked us to secure areas between Shiher and Mahra to prevent smuggling,” he told Arab News. “We have discovered several vehicles carrying weapons to the Houthis.”

Starting from scratch
Yemen’s coast guard authority crumbled in late 2014 when Houthis seized control of Sanaa and expanded across the country, triggering a civil war.
When the Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in support of Yemen’s government, monitoring the country’s sea waters was left to the coalition’s navy. At the same time, the coalition had to rebuild the coast guard by training troops inside and outside Yemen, building facilities and equipping the forces with boats that would enable them to take on the mission.
The governor of Hadramout said that the coast guard branch in the large province was now working without much help as the coalition had furnished them with the equipment needed for the missions.
“We have stood on our feet thanks to great help from the coalition. They provided us with radar and boats,” Al-Bahsani added.

Smuggling focal points
Yemeni experts believed that large shipments of Iranian weapons to the Houthis went through a few seaports that were under rebel control in the western province of Hodeida.
“It is true that the Houthis might bring in light devices and weapons on land through government-controlled areas. But rockets, drones and heavy weapons come through Hodeida,” Yasser Al Yafae, a political analyst, told Arab News.
Hodeida city, which hosts Yemen’s biggest seaport, was the target of a major military offensive that managed to liberate several seaports on the Red Sea and reach the city’s outskirts.
The offensive was canceled in late 2018 under the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement that obliged the coalition-backed Yemeni forces to stop hostilities in exchange for a Houthi withdrawal from Hodeida’s seaport. Two years later, the Houthis have neither pulled out of the seaports nor allowed inspection on ships docked.
“The inauspicious Stockholm Agreement allowed Houthis to use Hodeida seaports to smuggle, weapons, weapons and drones,” Yahya Abu Hatem, a Yemeni military expert, told Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath on Friday.