MENA Women in the Workforce: Understanding Social Norms  | Wilson Center
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MENA Women in the Workforce: Understanding Social Norms 

Webcast available

Event Co-sponsors

The World Bank 

Webcast Recap

The Middle East and North Africa region continues to have one of the lowest female labor participation rates in the world. Despite progress in some countries with more women receiving tertiary education, challenges and inequities persist.


The World Bank has released a first of its kind world wide report, titled “Understanding How Gender Norms in MENA Impact Female Employment Outcomes.” Done through a behavioral economist view it may shed light the role of social norms in defining gender and labor. Read the report here


Join us and our expert panel to understand the barriers women face when entering the workforce including social norms, transportation, childcare services and more. Our panel convenes experts and practitioners, including from the World Bank, to discuss this new report and to explore the challenges and solutions to boost further female labor participation in the MENA region. 


This event is led by the Middle East Women’s Initiative, a new initiative which aims to deepen understanding of both the challenges and opportunities in gender development across the MENA region and co-sponsored with the World Bank. 


Photo credit: Shutterstock 


Selected Quotes


Dr. Fida Adely

“I’ve been doing research amongst a group of women who are travelling from provinces to Amman to work and living on their own.  And so, they are breaking quite a number of norms: moving to the city and living on their own.”

Mariana T. Felicio

“[Jordan] is the country with the lowest female labor force participation in the world of a country not at war...and it is also the country with the highest level of [female] university degree graduates, 54 percent.”

Varun Gauri

According to the (World Bank study) study on a sample of households from Mafraq, Zarqa and Amman, “It’s the personal beliefs of a man that are going to be most strongly correlated with whether women work. Not the personal beliefs of the woman, not the social empirical expectations, not the social participations, the personal beliefs of the man which seems to be driving behavior.”

Hidden Voices Speak Louder than you Think
Social norms affecting women's employment in Jordan
World Bank




  • Dr. Fida Adely

    Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University
  • Mariana T. Felicio

    Senior Social Development Specialist for the World Bank’s Latin America and the Caribbean Region
  • Varun Gauri

    Senior Economist in the Development Economics Vice Presidency of the World Bank