A Modern Image

Women in Business


A Modern Image

Women are playing an increasingly large role in the economy, and as part of Qatar National Vision 2030 look set for an even bigger part.


The influence of strong role models such as HH Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser Al-Misnad, wife of the Father Emir, is inspiring young women to be more active in areas of business, literature, art, sports, and science. Sheikha Moza has been Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation (QF) since 1995, Vice-Chair of the Supreme Education Council since 2002, and most recently was invited to be a member of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group in 2010. On top of this, she is engaged in many international development projects and actively involved in endorsing women’s conferences and promoting literacy in the Middle East and Asia. Other women occupying important roles in business include Sheikha Hanadi Nasser Bint Khaled Al Thani, Founder and Chairperson of Amwal, and Aisha Alfardan, Vice-Chairperson of the Qatari Businesswoman Association. Both are consistently ranked amongst the most powerful women in the Arab world and play a prominent role in encouraging Qatari women to pursue entrepreneurship and become more involved in business and investment activities. The Qatari Businesswomen Association was set up with this goal in mind and works on strengthening links and fostering a better business environment for Qatari women. There are also important female role models in the public sector, including HE Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Sheikha Al Mayassa, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, and Professor Abdulla Al-Misnad, President of Qatar University.


Social norms and attitudes are also increasingly being shaped by the influence of a large expatriate community in Qatar, in which women occupy the same roles as men and opportunities for career advancement are more equal between the sexes. The emergence of social networks and increased contact with the Western world through media has a similar effect on shaping views on the role of women in society. Besides women in the workplace, an important change that has taken place regards female participation in sports. In the Asian Games of 2014, Qatar participated with 95 sportswomen across 11 sports. Ahlam Salem Al-Mana, President of the Qatar Women’s Sport Committee (QWSC) says, “People now see the importance of sports… and see how much their girls enjoy it. This has lead to a real shift in attitudes toward women’s sports.”


Despite the significant progress, women are still far behind men when it comes to their participation in business and the private sector. Only around 35% of women join the workforce, and women are still under-represented in leadership and managerial positions. The situation is not deemed to be the result of legislation; the law views men and women as equal in the workplace and gender-based discrimination is prohibited under Article 35 of the Constitution of Qatar. Nor is it deemed a matter of lack of opportunities in the labor market. “The opportunity is there and a lot of women are grasping this opportunity,” says Aysha Al-Mudahka, CEO of the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC). “Still, I see there needs to be more women joining the private sector and starting up businesses.”

Acting as a barrier for women entering the workforce are the persistence of conservative attitudes as well as the fact that, as is the case in the Western world, women continue to be the primary carers for children and the elderly. A recent study showed that 73% of Arab women and an even smaller proportion of Arab men, 58%, believed that women should have the same chances for career progression as men. This indicates the continued association of women with domesticity and passivity in society. Also, once they become part of the workforce, women often do not enjoy the same employee benefits as men. For example, married women in Qatar are not eligible for the housing or education allowance that is granted to men in similar organizations. Furthermore, the gap in earnings between men and women continues to be significant, with women earning on average 69% of men’s wages.

This is both a cause and a symptom of the lack of career progression amongst female workers. “I think the workplace is open for women right now, but I would like to see more women in executive positions such as CEO, within government and semi-government enterprises,” says Shareefa Fadhel, Managing Director of Rhouda Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the development of women and their entrepreneurial skills.


An increase in female education, as well as their increased participation in the workforce, clearly aligns itself with the three pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030; human development, social development, and economic development. The realization of this vision will bring with it the enhancement of women’s capacities and an increase in their participation in all spheres of the economy, as well as in political decision making. Furthermore, as Qatar moves away from oil and gas toward diversification and building a knowledge-based economy, a healthy, well-educated, and productive female population will become increasingly important. The government forecasts female participation in the labor force to increase to 42% by 2016, with an increasing emphasis being placed on raising the number of women in top business and government positions. Women will be more actively involved in areas such as science, health, sports, and education, meaning they will increasingly contribute to the economic growth and prosperity of Qatar and to the country’s wider strategy of modernization.

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