DUBAI: The proportion of women in professional and technical jobs in the Middle East is set to double over the next decade, but women in the region still face a higher number of challenges than elsewhere in the world if they are to bridge the gender gap.
This is the main finding of a year-long survey of women’s participation in the economies of selected regional countries — including Saudi Arabia — by international consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
“The data shows that jobs are likely to more than double by 2030,” said Rima Assi, senior McKinsey partner and joint author of the report. “Women are not yet sufficiently integrated into high-productivity sectors in the Middle East, nor are they adequately equipped with the advanced technological skills required to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The boost to jobs for women will come about through digitization, online platforms, and entrepreneurship, she added.
“Advancing the role of women in society and the economy is a key driver for change in the Middle East. Increased female participation in professional and technical jobs can turbo-charge economic growth in a region that will be significantly impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution — making their participation all the more critical,” Assi said.
The research included surveys of women in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.
It found that “levels of literacy and enrollment of women in primary and tertiary education is on par with men and female tend to outperform boys in school. However, women prefer tertiary fields of study such as arts and education and are not sufficiently integrated in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.”
It also revealed that digital inclusion is a “critical catalyst” for boosting female participation in professional and technical jobs within the region, as technology begins to reshape the workplace, offering more job opportunities and greater flexibility for women who work. Increased digital inclusion would further support women’s active participation in the jobs of the future.
But the report found that high inequalities persist, most notably in legal protection and financial inclusion, with a significant number of women that remain unbanked.
“Introducing new legal frameworks is one important enabler for ending the gender-based inequalities prevalent in the Middle East region,” Assi said.