Though Qatar’s gender gap is improving, the country must do more to capitalize on the skills of its highly educated female residents, a recently released international report has found.
An increasing number of women in Qatar are holding managerial, professional and technical jobs, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
However, even though women here are graduating from universities in large numbers, there is still a considerable gender disparity in offices around the country, the report said.
The WEF’s annual Global Gender Gap Index ranks countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators.
Saudi Arabia and Oman were once again near the bottom, ranking 134th and 135th, respectively.
On social media, Qatar’s ranking was met with optimism by some residents:
Qatar's overall score is 0.645 (0.00 = inequality, 1.00 = equality). We'll get there. I'm positive we will.
— RN ♋︎ (@reehl7) November 23, 2015
Qatar’s ranking has kept pace with other improving countries over the past decade, as more women play a greater role in the country’s economic development.
Some 12 percent of legislators, senior officials and managers in Qatar are women, up from 7 percent in 2014, according to the WEF.
There was also an improvement in the proportion of women working in professional and technical positions, which rose from 19 to 23 percent.
However, Qatar’s boardrooms and corner offices remain mostly male, despite the fact that women outnumber men on university campuses across the country.
According to Qatar’s own data, which was released last year, there were nearly twice as many female students enrolled in universities in Qatar as males in 2012.
The Gulf state is not alone in failing to turn female graduates into leaders in the workplace.
“More women than men are enrolled in universities in nearly 100 countries, but women hold the majority of senior roles in only a handful of countries,” said the WEF’s Saadia Zahidi in a statement. She called the disparity a “continued loss of talent.”
While the report doesn’t explore the reasons for this lack of correlation, local researchers have found that most Qatari women attend university for reasons other than improving their job prospects.
Some 55 percent of Qatari women said that their pursuit of university education stemmed from purely academic – not economic – interests, according to a June 2014 survey conducted by the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) at Qatar University and researchers from Northwestern University in Qatar.
“They simply want to learn (and) be exposed to different perspectives,” SESRI policy analyst Fatima Al-Khaldi told Doha News last week. “University exposes one to a different way of teaching (and gives students the) liberty to speak and express their opinions.”
Meanwhile, 35 percent of university-educated respondents indicated that their main motivation in continuing beyond high school was to “get a better career.”
Virtually no respondents reported going to university due to family pressure (1 percent) or to avoid boredom (2 percent), researchers said.
Other survey findings
Like most countries, women and men in Qatar have comparable survival rates for many common diseases and a similar life expectancy.
However, the Gulf state fared poorly for its low number of female political politicians, which has consistently dragged down the country’s gender parity score over the years.
On the national level, which is what the report focused on, Dr. Hessa Al Jaber – Qatar’s minister of communication and information technology – is the country’s only current female cabinet minister.
She’s the third woman in the country’s history to hold a cabinet position.
And at the local level, citizens elected two women to Qatar’s 29-seat Central Municipal Council, up from one in the previous term.