Women Returners Ready to Boost MENA GDP by US$385 Billion
Mokshita P.
10x Industry

Women Returners Ready to Boost MENA GDP by US$385 Billion

A new study reveals that women returning to the workforce in the Middle East and North Africa could contribute US$385bn to GDP, emphasizing the need for inclusive policies and support.

In a study conducted by PwC Middle East, it has been unveiled that women returning to the workforce after a career break could contribute a staggering US$385 billion to the GDP across nine countries in the MENA region. The report, titled "Navigating the path back: Women returners in MENA," is the inaugural instalment of 'The case for diversity' series, shedding light on the economic potential hidden within this demographic.

The study drew insights from over 1,200 women across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Oman. Additionally, perspectives from influential CEOs in the region were integrated into the findings.

Key revelations from the report indicate that 44 percent of women in MENA have taken career breaks, predominantly motivated by family and caregiving responsibilities. Remarkably, 68 percent of these women possess experience beyond entry-level positions, and 82 percent believe they can ascend to top organisational levels upon returning to work. However, a hurdle lies in the fact that 49 percent of returning women have faced job application rejections, citing gaps in their resumes.

Challenges faced by women reentering the workforce encompass employer stigma, insufficient flexible working arrangements, and the looming risk of being subject to slower career advancement or reduced earnings due to what is colloquially known as "mommy tracking." The study also highlights that the longer the duration of the career break, the more daunting the reentry process becomes.

Hani Ashkar, Middle East Senior Partner at PwC Middle East, expressed optimism about addressing biases and inequalities that contribute to gender disparities, emphasising the need for proactive measures to translate awareness into tangible results.

Norma Taki, Middle East Inclusion & Diversity Leader, stressed the importance of recognising career breaks as opportunities for personal growth. Taki asserted that the responsibility for facilitating the return of women to the workforce rests not only on female professionals but requires concerted efforts from employers, governments, and society at large.

The report underscores the importance of alternative work models, such as flexible or remote working, in assisting women in balancing work and home responsibilities. Additionally, providing more equitable parental leave policies and well-designed return-ship programs emerged as crucial factors in encouraging women to rejoin the workforce.

To harness this economic potential fully, the study recommends businesses to address unconscious bias through inclusive workplace policies and training, alongside implementing effective mentorship and sponsorship programs. By adopting these measures, the report estimates potential GDP gains of up to US$4.3 billion across the nine countries studied.

In conclusion, the findings emphasise the contribution that women returners can make to the region's economic success, urging organisations to support their reintegration into the workforce.