QFC continues to play a major role in gender diversification in Qatar; the share of women has recently grown, slightly faster than overall growth in QFC employment.
Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) employment data from 2018 reveals that women comprised almost 27% of employees in QFC companies, which demonstrates the key role they are playing in gender diversification in the country. This is higher than the percentage of women in the main associated economic sectors in Qatar and significantly higher than the percentage of women in the workforce in the wider Qatari economy, showing QFC’s role in boosting gender diversity in the Qatari labour force. Further expansion in the female workforce outperformed overall growth in QFC employment between 2018 and 2019: QFC companies’ employment grew by around 10% between these years, and growth in female employment was slightly higher at nearly 11%. From this growing employment pool, around 80% of female QFC employees are highly-skilled and have university or post graduate degrees – showing a high representation of educated women, and also demonstrating QFC’s role in building human capital in the Qatari economy.
Comparisons with the main sectors that QFC companies fall in (i.e., the financial and insurance and professional, scientific and technical activities sectors) also show the key role QFC is playing in enabling women to succeed in more senior level positions. Data from 2019 shows that looking at senior level positions only2, 8.2% of the economically active population in these sectors in Qatar was female. In contrast, 13.5% of senior level positions in QFC companies were filled by women. This shows that QFC companies are not merely outperforming the rest of the sector in representation of women overall, but are providing more opportunities for women in roles where they have an opportunity to lead and shape their organizations – and serve as role models for women aspiring to rise through the ranks in finance and professional services jobs.
Reforms guided by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in terms of human and community development through education, equal opportunities, family welfare and regulation have seen women establish themselves as a formidable part of the workforce in Qatar.
QFC’s (as well as the QFCA, through its Administration - Human Capital led initiatives) culture is underpinned by a number of key values that differentiate it in Qatar. Its agenda is firmly supported by the companies within QFC, which include well-known international names with strong global people management practices, including on gender diversity.
Some of QFCA’s key values include the following:
QFC has also played a key role in building this gender diversity through a series of substantive actions taken by QFC’s Employment Standards Office (ESO). For instance, in September 2018, the ESO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADSLA) and in 2019, as part of its continuing efforts in this area, the ESO organised a conference to celebrate International Women’s Day in Doha, together with MADSLA and the International Labour Organization (ILO). To ensure continued traction, the ESO is engaged in discussion with the MADSLA, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Qatar Foundation and other key local stakeholders on the establishment of a working group on gender equality as a first step to activate the National Committee for women, elderly, children and people with disabilities. This action is being taken to support Qatar in achieving the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Goal 5 (“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”) while simultaneously harnessing the female talent that is increasingly represented in its employment pool.
This includes a number of other steps to actively support and cater to the needs of its female workforce at a QFC level. These include a number of policy decisions such as increasing maternity leave to 14 weeks, in line with ILO standards; implementing paid daily nursing breaks; introducing a “right to carrier” provision (meaning that female employees have the right to return to work after maternity leave to the same position held before maternity); allowing part-time employment to facilitate work-life balance; instituting protection from termination of female employees for reasons related to marriage and maternity and the creation of a dedicated nursing room within QFC premises. These steps demonstrate QFC’s commitment to building an inclusive and supportive environment to attract, retain and empower female employees. This is likely to have significant economic benefits, particularly by ensuring that experienced female employees remain productive in the skilled workforce.
As a basic principle, increasing female participation in the workforce increases the supply of labour in the job market. More importantly, research by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)3 indicates that women and men complement each other in the production process, creating additional benefits for economic growth beyond merely increasing the stock of labour – a so-called “gender diversity” boon on productivity. Other related research has found that increased diversity can lead to better business outcomes, such as market valuation and revenues4. Looking beyond the short-term, having more women in the workforce – particularly in senior roles – can in itself help create female role models, which has a self-reinforcing beneficial effect on encouraging more women into the workforce. All of these factors are therefore likely to have a tangible positive impact on financial performance, such as by increasing company valuations and revenues, which in turn is likely to lead to a stronger and more resilient economy.
Despite the advances made globally, there still remains significant work to close the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum, women still lack the same career prospects as men. The World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2020” index – which covers indicators such as mobility, pay, workplace, parenthood and assets amongst others – shows that Qatar’s progress has been slow: in 2020, Qatar’s rating stands at 32.5 points (out of a maximum of 100 points). Although this needs to be understood in the context of the wider region’s scores – the Middle East & North Africa region has the lowest aggregate score amongst all regions in the world – it still shows that the economy has room for improvement in a number of areas (the workplace is one of the two areas where Qatar has been found to be particularly lacking). To this end, QFC is demonstrating a positive example through its share of women in its workforce, the increase in female employees in recent years and the policy decisions it has implemented to empower its workforce.
“The non-energy private sector of Qatar had a strong start to 2021, with the PMI rising sharply to 53.9. Outside of the July-August rebound seen last year, the latest figure was the highest ever recorded since October 2017. The upward momentum in the headline figure reflected the output and new orders components, which were both at the third-highest levels to date. Moreover, sector data signalled broad-based improvement with services seeing a notable boost at the start of the year, having been a comparative weak spot since the pandemic struck. I can confer that the service businesses I interact with at the QFC are able to conduct more activities and achieve greater outputs in the current environment.
“Although the latest GDP data (for the third quarter of last year) revealed a further contraction in the overall economy, recent PMI data suggest that the non-energy sector is now recovering strongly.”
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