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.

Share This Story