A slow motion revolution is happening across the Gulf, with more women working more than ever before. It is becoming a norm for young women to pursue professional careers after leaving college, with effects of transformations taking place for the women, businesses and the society.
The number of women in the workforce has quickly risen since the turn of the millennium from approximately a third to around a half in Qatar and the UAE. It is lower in Saudi Arabia but growing fast. According to official statistics, it has risen in Saudi Arabia by almost a quarter in just the last three decades.
Some of the factors that played a role in helping change the attitude toward women who wish to work out of homes are high profile government initiatives aimed at harnessing female talent and the pursuance of international gender equality.
Forbes last year published a list of the top 100 Arab businesswomen, which featured many from the Gulf.
Change is swiftly happening in Saudi Arabia over the past year, with the Kingdom launching a concentrated drive to make work easier for women, rolling out a succession of reforms and initiatives.
Women in Saudi Arabia can now set up their own businesses without the permission of their guardian and soon they will be able to take the wheel. Sectors that have traditionally been dominated by the males are now being opened up to women, from border control, to the military and the tourism industry.
Getting women into work increases the household income, as shown by studies worldwide. This increases household spending levels thus helping in the growth of the wider economy.
Gender equality could contribute an additional $600 billion to the annual regional GDP, as suggested by a model created by McKinsey, the global consulting firm
Technology is already opening up new pathways for women who want to balance work with family commitments and social traditions. Over the past decade, technology has made remote working much easier, especially with improvements in internet technology.
CEO of Dubai-based Tarjama, Nour Al-Hassan is one businesswoman who is tapping into internet technology for this approach. About 90% of her employees are women and a lot of them work from home, setting their own plans around their family duties.
Al-Hassan said that the “work from home” model is becoming more common in the region and she believes it is something a lot more businesses should try.
The technology of the internet will also help more women from the Gulf start their own online businesses. Many women are already flourishing in the tech startup world.
The co-founder and CEO of Eventtus, an events management app, Mai Medhat and the woman behind Mumzworld, an online shopping site for mothers and children, are just two among many female tech entrepreneurs in the United Arab Emirates.
Studies has revealed women to be great at multitasking, and they are famous for being excellent organizers and wiser with money.
Women are expected to be one of the key drivers to the growth of regional economies over the next few years, as the region transition away from oil.