Women in the work­place

Ad­dress­ing gen­der equal­ity in Le­banon and the re­gion

Executive Magazine - - Contents - By Jeremy Ar­bid

Ev­ery March 8 the UN marks In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day. Ex­ec­u­tive set out to ex­plore fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in the coun­try’s econ­omy and the ex­tent of gen­der in­equal­ity in dif­fer­ent as­pects of Le­banese so­ci­ety.

Ev­ery March 8 the United Na­tions marks In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day to high­light the progress women have made to­wards equal­ity with men and drawing at­ten­tion to the chal­lenges women con­tinue to face across the world — the so­ci­etal pres­sures, prej­u­dices and vi­o­lence sub­ju­gat­ing them. Ex­ec­u­tive set out to mark the oc­ca­sion by ex­plor­ing the sadly in­ad­e­quate en­gage­ment of women in the Le­banese work­place, and iden­ti­fy­ing some who have bro­ken past dis­crim­i­na­tory laws and prej­u­dices to rise to the top of male dom­i­nated fields.

The so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tions pre­vail­ing within Le­banon and across the re­gion, as well as the sub­ju­ga­tion and vi­o­lence women face, un­der­line women’s rights as a crit­i­cal is­sue, but one that is not of­ten a pri­or­ity. What is clear is that the women of the Mid­dle East con­tinue to live in pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­eties where at one end, the vi­o­lence — in­clud­ing ha­rass­ment, as­sault, mu­ti­la­tion, rape and mur­der — that women suf­fer drives them to fur­ther de­pen­dence on male guardians for pro­tec­tion, while at the other it is the sys­tem­atic dis­crim­i­na­tion of women via civil or re­li­gious law that un­der­mines their march to­wards equal­ity.

Even when women are free of bla­tant sub­ju­ga­tion, more sub­tle bi­ases take over. Of­ten­times th­ese prej­u­dices man­i­fest in the of­fice, where em­ploy­ers con­tinue to see mar­riage and do­mes­tic obligations as a hin­drance to pro­duc­tiv­ity that blocks women from de­ci­sion­mak­ing po­si­tions. Statis­tics can tell only part of this story. In Le­banon, where avail­able data is sorely lack­ing, the num­bers do not paint a good pic­ture, and even in West­ern coun­tries where for decades move­ments have ad­vo­cated gen­der equal­ity, statis­tics still show gaps be­tween males and fe­males in terms of wages, the num­ber of fe­male ex­ec­u­tives and board mem­bers, and in po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Data de­fi­cien­cies aside, Ex­ec­u­tive’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­veals the pre­vail­ing pres­sures women con­front on a daily ba­sis in Le­banon and the re­gion. In­ter­views with gen­der pol­icy ex­perts and women’s rights ad­vo­cates, as well as per­sonal anec­dotes and a broad re­view of the lit­er­a­ture doc­u­ment­ing gen­der based dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence, all in­di­cate the ex­is­tence of an anti woman cul­tural norm stem­ming from the pa­tri­ar­chal lead­er­ship in the house­hold — where the un­com­pen­sated work of rais­ing chil­dren, main­tain­ing the house and cater­ing to the pa­tri­arch are the defin­ing bur­dens that women are ex­pected to bear.


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