Bias and Barriers

Bias and Barriers

Raising women’s labor force participation in the Arab world could boost economic growth, but there are deeply rooted obstacles

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Despite some progress, the Arab Middle East and North Africa remain mired in traditional rules and attitudes that make it extraordinarily hard for women to get jobs or start their own businesses. In this compelling article, journalist Nazila Fathi recounts the disheartening stories of several highly educated and motivated women who, despite their achievements, find it nearly impossible to move up the economic ladder without a male backer. getAbstract recommends this important report to anyone interested in how gender issues affect a nation’s economic growth.


Since the 2011 Arab Spring, women in Middle Eastern Arab countries and in North Africa appear to have been gaining economic ground. But sobering statistics and women’s first-hand accounts indicate that actual progress has been excruciatingly slow. 

The region’s 2017 female workforce participation rate is an abysmal 21.2%, much lower than the 40% attained in other countries. Despite real gains in legal protections, men’s overarching dominance remains entrenched. Most women work in low-paying occupations without opportunities...

About the Author

Nazila Fathi is a former correspondent for The New York Times and the author of The Lonely War: One Woman’s Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

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