Women in Business: Behind the Veil

Sitting in my hotel room in Jeddah, trying to resist the lure of waffles with strawberries. Found this article in Gulf Business magazine:

Behind the Veil
To the average observer in the West, women in the Middle East are a repressed gender, confined to their homes by the ‘conservative’ male. The truth is a bit different. There has been a dramatic shift in Arab attitudes over the past decade, with women in the Middle East now charging up the corporate ladder and finding success on their own terms.

The article then goes on to talk about women entrepreneurs in the region, and interviews HRH Princess Mashael bint Faisal from Saudi Arabia (President of the Board of Business Women Forum in the Eastern Province). She makes it clear that when women are discounted from societies and government, they fail to deliver.

I pinged onto the question put to Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Chairman of Arab International Women’s Forum, and her answer:

Even in the Forbes list of the most influential women in the world, there are only a handful of women CEOs. What could be the reason for that?

The problem of gender inequality is not confined to the Arab world. Women are by no means globally empowered, and the issues and challenges faced by Arab women must not be misrepresented or misconstrued, but, should be viewed pragmatically and in context with the issues and challenges faced by women the world over. The empowerment of women is truly a global issue which must be taken very seriously by civil society, the private sector, and most importantly, by women themselves. Without detracting from the successes of these individual women, there is still much to be done.

Notice how the actual question What could be the reason for that? is not answered?

Got to go. Waffles have arrived. 😛

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

4 thoughts on “Women in Business: Behind the Veil

  1. In your various Saudi posts you’ve touched on some really important issues about identity in general, and on images of women. The whole issue of “the veil” is very complex, and it is not just about the physical veil worn in some cultures. The issue you have raised here about gender imbalance is part of a larger “veil” worn by woman as a gender, and globally, rather than that worn by individual female Arab Muslims.

    As you’ve discovered (I think, reading your posts), these woman you’ve encountered are not unusual…they are beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful and many other things beside. The western media has at least as much to answer for in regards to “opression” as does male/Arab/Muslim society/culture.

    I’m sure you’ve well and truly done the job that you went there to do. But, there are many messages to bring back, and I’m sure you will help get some of those messages out there.

    Have a safe trip home, and a great birthday.


  2. Its definitley no secret concerning the trials women have faced when entering upon a male dominated field of business no matter what their ethnicity is. It’s so amazing how far women have come in the world of business. The web has been a huge effort in the growth and availablilty for women to start their own businesses. It’s really exciting to be apart of the business developments that technology has supported throughout the past 2 decades, especially throughout internet development. My favorite new business manager that I can’t talk up enough is Microsoft’s Office Live Small Business, which gathers all necessary resources entrepreneurs need for web presence and business management. It’s so simple and easy to use; you will be amazed how your business will grow with their web application. It would be a mistake not to check out http://smallbusiness.officelive.com for further info.I work with Microsoft so i’m always here to spread helpful info, so don’t hesitate to ask!

  3. @tanya middleton
    That’s a really bad piece of P.R. and you bring Microsoft into disrepute. In fact, IMHO, you are probably not working with Microsoft at all, but engaging in some crap anti-MS anti-marketing campaign. If so, take it elsewhere!

    If you are genuinely a Microsoft employee, your poor grasp of both the incredibly important issues facing women with social media and the challenges the world will face in the future if women don’t get to the top of certain types of organisations (e.g. diminishing workforce) is only compounded by your appalling understanding of how to engage with consumers in blogs. Time to rethink your strategies, hon.

  4. Women have come so far. Today’s world requires women business. Women today are playing an important role in the economy and in politics. I’m not saying that we don’t still have quite a way to go; there is definitely still inequality. But slowly, it’s getting better. We have come a long way in the last hundred years and I’m excited to see how much more progress is made just in my lifetime.

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