Ideally, women should be hired on merit, Elsner said. But in countries such as Saudi Arabia, where the government is striving to give women greater opportunities in employment, quotas were needed to help kickstart the process.
“I was against quotas,” she said. “I believe a woman should get a position because of her own competence and knowledge, and because she is worthy of the position.”
Quotas were needed to make women in the workplace a social norm. Once that was achieved, she said, the hiring of women based on their merit would follow naturally.
In a conservative society, such as Saudi Arabia, men and women work separately in many areas, including education and government bodies. “I believe organizations that separate men and women in the workplace are losing a lot,” Elsner said.
“Mixed atmospheres are more healthy and productive,” she said. “Each gender needs the other as a correction.”
Elsner says educated women should also work because they have a social responsibility.
“An educated women should ask herself what is she doing to (help) society. It is considered stealing not to give knowledge back to the society — it is a duty.”
Elsner said that raising a family is a small contribution to the society, and women can do a lot more.
Married women with families are more reliable and productive than women without family responsibilities. “They are super-organized, reliable and efficient,” she said.
Elsner has worked extensively coaching and training women in management positions in the West and in Arab countries, particularly Egypt.
Women’s qualifications in the Arab world are much more varied than in Europe, she said.
“In Europe, women usually go for teaching, nursing, medicine, and areas that are socially related, while more women in the Arab world go for fields that are occupied mainly by men, such as engineering.”
Women around the world face the same problems and difficulties, she said. “It is always challenging to find acceptance in a male-dominant world.”
Elsner said her experience working in the Arab region in the past decade had been highly rewarding.
“I worked with women’s associations in Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, and Tunisia. The past 12 years of my life have been the best. The Arab world has changed my way of thinking,” she said.
Elsner described Arab women as “high-potential individuals, ready to take the initiative, express themselves and try.”