Why Aren't Educated Middle Eastern Women Joining the Workforce?

Illustration for article titled Why Aren't Educated Middle Eastern Women Joining the Workforce?

There are actually more women than men in university in almost two thirds of Middle Eastern countries, which is a huge deal: it even goes beyond one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, which is to eliminate gender inequality in all levels of education by 2015. But why hasn't the higher number of female graduates translated into the workplace?


Very few Middle Eastern women get jobs once they receive their cap and gown. How bad is the disparity? Well, in Lebanon, 54% of university students are women, but only 26% of the labor force and 8% of legislators, senior officials and managers are female. 63% of Qatar's university population is comprised of women, but ladies make up just 12% of the labor force and only 7% of legislators, senior officials and managers. What's going on?

Experts say the issue is that most of these women don't go to college in hopes of getting a job afterwards; they go to meet friends and significant others. "Girls and boys continue to be socialized very differently with different expectations," Nawar Al-Hassan Golley, Associate Professor in Literary Theory and Women's Studies at the American University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, told CNN. "Boys have more personal freedoms to go outside the home, whereas girls continue to be socialized within the home. Therefore, for many girls school is their only opportunity to make friends and socialize outside the family, so it is something they look forward to." Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, Director of the Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University, had a less positive take on the phenomenon: she said many women go to school to "fill time" before they get married — or are just there to find a "better" husband. Jeez, Dima, way to support the sisterhood.

And there are reasons why less men are getting masters degrees, too: while women have the "luxury" of attending college, men who are traditionally expected to be family breadwinners can't afford to devote time to their studies, especially since they have years of fucking around under their belt. "Boys have more freedoms outside of school and see school as somewhere with unnecessary discipline," Golley said. "This may make boys more likely to drop out of school than girls."

Both women said they believed the situation would even out with time. "I believe that things will change gradually," said Dabbous-Sensenig. "The more women are highly educated, some of them will become motivated, independent young women who will get good jobs. Thirty years ago they didn't have that option."

Mid East women beat men in education, lose out at work [CNN]

Image via michaeljung /Shutterstock.



I'm guessing that wealth (in Qatar, SA, and UAE, specifically) has a lot to do with it. Just like in the states: *some* girls with hella money go to college to socialize, culturalize, and meet boys with hella money. They marry spend the rest of their lives outside the workforce (I'm looking at you, Ann Rmoney!*)

I used to clean an apartment for a young woman (my age!) who had come from the UAE to Seattle to go to law school. It was a weird, weekly nightmare. Her parents had SERIOUS money. Her closet was full of clothes with the tags still on, not one below $100 (I only know this because part of my job—unlike with any other client—was to pick up all her clothes and hang them up or put them in the laundry). Whenever I tried to engage her in polite conversation like I did with my other clients, she acted like I was a total weirdo and would try to go on pretending I wasn't there. Every week, when I came back, whatever I had put in her washer would STILL BE IN HER WASHER. One day, she spent half the time I was there crying and talking harshly on the phone to her parents, saying "You can't stress me out now, I have a test tomorrow". The next week, I was told I needn't clean her place for five weeks because her parents had given her A NOSE JOB as an end-of-semester present and she would be recovering. During this time, her mother called my boss and demanded to know why food had rotted in her daughter's refrigerator without being thrown out, and also claimed that some priceless earrings were missing. My boss told her that we were cleaners, not personal maids, and asked her to kindly go fuck herself. I never had to go back.

Mostly, I just wanted to rant, but, case in point? Though she is clearly just one individual who happens to be an educated Middle Eastern Woman, could I see her as a lawyer in her future? Could I see her working any job, in any capacity? Hell to the no. It sickens me that people like her exist, in any culture or country. Which is why I don't clean for anybody but my holistic masseuse and my boyfriend anymore.


* do you see what I did there? :D