The countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) have the world's lowest rates of participation in economic activity by women, who account for a mere one in five of the gainfully employed. An average of up to 50 per cent of young female university graduates are unemployed. Although more women lacking higher education qualifications find work, they usually have poorly paid, socially insecure jobs. Traditional views of gender roles present an obstacle to gender equality in the labour market throughout all social groups. This situation has been compounded since 2011 by the economic crisis resulting from the Arab Spring.
When applying for jobs in the private sector, women are less likely to be hired despite having the relevant qualifications. Employers are concerned that they may often be unable to work or could resign prematurely due to family obligations. At the same time, many firms are finding it difficult to fill vacancies. Many jobs are barely compatible with the idea of a welfare state and are not very attractive for women. The potential of female labour is only being harnessed to a limited extent for the private sector.
Employment opportunities for women in private sector companies have improved in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
The project fosters Gender Diversity Management (GDM), the human resource policy promoting the economic integration and retention of women. The professional management of Gender Diversity realising the better integration of women and gender equality within the workforce is increasingly perceived as a requirement for the competitiveness of a company.
Examples of this include the introduction of flexible working hours, the use of women’s quotas within recruitment processes, the development of career paths and the consistent implementation of gender policies at the management level. A socially responsible and family-friendly working environment enables broader staff selection, reduces absences and staff rotation and ultimately leads to improved overall business performance. The active labour market participation of women has an immediate impact on economic growth.
A highlight of the project is its global knowledge sharing platform, known as ‘Gender Diversity Circulator’. This platform enables direct exchange between enterprises from the MENA region and companies from Germany and Europe.
The project works closely with business associations. Going forward, these associations support their member firms in integrating GDM into their business practices.
To foster the female talent pipeline in private sector companies, EconoWin is additionally orienting female pupils and university students towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs and managerial positions in cooperation with more than 100 private sector companies in MENA.
Digital solutions to improve women’s employment conditions or open up opportunities for employment are fostered in cooperation with private sector companies in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.
Since January 2015, more than 100 companies have participated in GDM events. More than 100 companies engaged in professional orientation of female pupils and students, 30 firms have signed cooperation agreements with Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and are implementing GDM projects. For example, working conditions were being made ready to integrate women in the telecommunications and IT sector at Vodafone Egypt, Umniah in Jordan and Vermeg in Tunisia. In the banking sector, both Amen Bank in Tunisia and BMCI in Morocco introduced women-friendly recruitment processes and career development programmes. More than 14,000 employees (including 5,000 women) have already benefited from GDM projects in the four countries. Through training courses, 150 human resources managers from more than 40 firms now have the skills they need to initiate GDM in their businesses. Overall, the working conditions of almost 35,000 employees -among them more than 12,000 women- have improved by now. More than 138,000 relatives have benefited of the economic integration of women. In cooperation with GIZ, Germany’s Commerzbank convened the first global GDM conference in Berlin in 2017, which was attended by 100 representatives from 60 companies and more than 10 organisations.