In the Middle East and North Africa, women have a hard time finding work, climbing the corporate ladder, and accessing financial services. Changing that, say experts, will be key to fighting poverty and spurring economic development. Here's why.
Companies with women in senior positions are more profitable than those run exclusively by men, allowing them to grow quickly and create jobs. In fact, one study from Jordan revealed that firms with female board members were three times more profitable than those headed by men alone.
In the Middle East and North Africa only 26 percent of women work outside the home, making it almost impossible for those trapped in poverty to escape. If women were employed at or near the rate in the rest of the world, household incomes would jump a whopping 25 percent.
Women own more than 9 million business around the world. But they have a much harder time getting loans and other types of credit than men. Changing that would help unlock the potential of female entrepreneurs, setting off a wave of innovation and job creation.
Girls with an education not only lead happier lives, they also help improve the economic prospects of their communities. A one percentage point increase in female education leads to a massive .37 percentage point increase in a country's gross domestic product.
Firms that employ women can draw on a much broader talent pool than those that don't. These firms are usually more innovative, more productive (up to 25 percent so), and make better decisions. They also likely to understand their customers better; women make or influence up to 80 percent of all buying decisions. In addition, firms who specifically target female customers – such as banks – are able to reap the benefits of tapping into a large and underserved market of customers, who are more loyal and more receptive to cross-selling. Firms who diversify their supplier base and source from both women- and men-led business are more competitive and are better at responding to their customers' needs.