Women in MENA workforce could increase GDP by $2 trillion: PwC Middle East survey

June 09, 2022

  • Increased female employment could increase GDP across the MENA region by 57%, or as much as $2 trillion

  • Although younger women are increasingly better educated, World Bank data suggests only 40% of working-age women in the GCC are employed

  • Young women face an “expectations vs. reality” gap between their ambitions and their experiences of employers

  • PwC Middle East recommends five key measures including embracing female employees wellbeing and investing in their skills to help MENA employers empower women in workplaces across their career lifecycle

08 June 2022 – PwC Middle East launched its latest MENA Women in Work Survey 2022: Young Women, Powerful Ambitions to highlight the career aspirations of young women and the challenges they face in achieving their ambitions across the Middle East and North Africa region and the key measures needed by MENA employers to unleash women’s potential in workplaces. 

The study was launched in conjunction with the Middle East Action for Diversity Council, a council of CEOs from multinationals in the region with a clear aim of leading by example as well as rallying like-minded organisations to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace by working together and committing to change.

While young MENA women are more likely than ever to be highly educated, their employment prospects and career opportunities leave room for improvement. This is highlighted by the “expectations vs. reality” gap that young women face, where they face a disconnect between their expectations and lived experiences of employers. Around 94% of the surveyed women favoured “work-life balance” and “training & development opportunities” as their most valued employer characteristic. However, only 62% of women agree that their employer provides a satisfactory “work-life balance” and “training & development” opportunities.The economic prize from getting this right could be significant. PwC analysis shows that increasing the share of women in work in MENA to match the male employment rate could increase the GDP by 57%, or as much as $2 trillion. 

While 84% of women aspire to become leaders in their fields, female employees illustrated that work is not their only priority, with 80% agreeing that it is important to play a leading role in looking after their families.

Hence, embedding diversity strategies for the entire career lifecycle, setting diversity KPIs to ensure fair assessments for women and reinforcing supportive workplace cultures are critical steps for MENA employers to effectively attract, recruit and retain talented young women. 

Hani Ashkar, PwC Middle East Senior Partner, commented: "Identifying, developing, promoting and retaining women is essential for the success of our business and our region more broadly.  Key takeaways from our most recent research include encouraging employers to create a strategy that includes investing in skills, reforming cultures, embedding equitable workplace policies, respecting personal time and wellbeing as well as developing metrics to actively track the progress in supporting female employees.”

Norma Taki, Inclusion and diversity Leader at PwC Middle East, commented: “We welcome all initiatives in the MENA region that aim in advancing women’s careers, which requires a multi-party approach in order for any progress to be sustainable. Governments should continue to support women on a policy-level, and companies should take a more proactive approach in creating workplace environments conducive to women’s success.”

Adding: “At PwC Middle East, we strongly believe in adapting diversity strategies across countries that are sensitive to cultural nuances, and recognise the interconnectedness of social, economic, and cultural barriers that women face in the world of work. Tapping into the potential of the next generation of female workers and leaders will unlock a whole new wave economic opportunities in the region.

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