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‘Long road’ to better gender equality in the Gulf
Greater involvement of women in society is still some way off, says GCC Secretary-General.
April 11, 2010 12:30 by Ben Flanagan
The representation of GCC women in leadership positions is still below the ambitions of member countries and does not match their performance in education and work, said GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah on Saturday.
Opening a seminar in Riyadh titled “Women and Development in Gulf Cooperation Council Countries,” Al-Attiyah said there is still a long way to go for the GCC to strengthen women’s position in their societies.
“Although we have made a lot of achievements in empowering women in order for them to become active partners in the development process with its comprehensive concept, it is to be acknowledged that the road is still long,” he told the seminar.
Al-Attiyah underscored the GCC governments’ endeavors to give women a greater role in the development process. “GCC women have proved their capability and efficiency to become important partners in national development … We are proud of the development they have achieved,” he said.
He said GCC countries have adopted a series of laws and regulations to enhance women’s participation in national development. For the first time ever, Saudi Arabia appointed a woman as deputy minister in February 2009. It has also established a women-only university in Riyadh. Employment of women in the Kingdom’s public and private sectors is also on the increase.
But a report released by Booz & Company on Women’s Employment in the GCC showed that only 14.4 percent of Saudi women were employed compared to a whopping 59 percent of UAE women. Kuwaiti women came second in the report with 42.49 percent, followed by Qatar 36.4 percent and Bahrain 34.3 percent.
“The business environment in the UAE is conducive for women to join the work force,” said Debabrat Mishra, principal consulting business leader of Hewitt Associates, when asked about the reason for the country’s prominence in women employment. “The UAE is also considered by many as more liberal than other parts of the GCC, thus encouraging women to explore opportunities in the work force,” she said.