Dialogue Series, Distingushed Lectures, Race & Society, Regional Studies

Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al Thani on Qatarization and Gender Quotas

Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al Thani on Qatarization and Gender Quotas

Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al-Thani delivered a Monthly Dialogue lecture on the subject of ‎‎“Women in Qatar: Quotas, Qualifications, and Qatarization” on December 4, 2012. Sheikha Al ‎Thani is the chairperson and founder of Al Faleh Group, an organization that provides ‎educational products and services, and she also serves on the Board of Directors for the Supreme ‎Education Council, Reach Out to Asia, and Zaytuna Institute and College. ‎

Sheikha Al Thani began the lecture by noting that “despite great strides in education and ‎employment, a large gender gap remains in position of status in Qatar for women.” There is still ‎much work that needs to be done to close the gender gap in the labor market, especially in ‎relation to the integration of Qatari women on a level playing field in the workforce in Qatar, the ‎Sheikha argued.‎

Education is one of the key pillars of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’sVision ‎‎2030 for Qatar, and one of the greatest agents of change for the role of women. “Qatar has ‎become a regional leader in education,” and has invested heavily in reforming the K-12 ‎educational system led by the Supreme Education Council. In addition, some of the world’s ‎leading universities and educational institutions have been invited to impart quality education ‎and transfer knowledge and skills. Through these institutions and through the emphasis on ‎reforming educational policies, Qatari women are emerging as professionals who contribute ‎equally to the country’s sustainable growth in a knowledge-based economy. “There is a strong ‎positive correlation between employability and the quality of education a woman receives,” and ‎so women in Qatar have been increasingly and actively participating in the economy, the labor ‎market, and society. Thus, Qatari women are shattering old paradigms, the Sheikha said. ‎

In comparison to the neighboring Gulf Cooperation Coucil (GCC) states, Qatar has the highest ‎percentage of local women employed in the national labor market. Despite this positive statistic, ‎Qatar has the region’s lowest percentage of women in senior leadership roles, and trails far ‎behind the European average. “United Nations data showed that only 7% of people in senior and ‎managerial positions were women, which was the lowest in the region.” This means that “women ‎are still underrepresented in decision-making positions in many fields,” but, Al Thani argued, this ‎is gradually changing in Qatar as more educated women are continually changing the face of the ‎labor market.‎

Although education is one of the most powerful tools for the empowerment of women in society, ‎it is only one area of social, economic, and political participation. Qatar has positively introduced ‎gender quotas in national employment, but, the Sheikha argued, there is a risk that these are not ‎properly introduced. There still needs to be more done to tackle the careful implementation of ‎‎“Qatarization” and gender quota policies for the inclusion of women in the labor market. ‎‎“Because this lack of participation is holding the region back from further economic growth, ‎some governments have stiffened their resolve to ensure that unrealistic quotas are met,” she ‎argued. “Not surprisingly, many public and private sector managers are reluctant to hire and ‎retain nationals, especially women, whom they feel lack the skills needed for the job.” ‎

Thus, Qatarization and gender quota policies must be introduced in a careful and constructive ‎manner so that all stakeholders gain from women’s participation in the labor market. The Sheikha ‎gave the example of Qatar Petroleum (QP) as a company that has addressed Qatarization in a ‎strategic and systematic manner. “It has adopted a process for attracting qualified talent from all ‎available sources. This includes hiring entry level candidates directly from the ranks of recent ‎graduates from women’s colleges and vocational institutes,” she said. ‎

Such job placement programs and public-private partnerships providing a direct link between ‎educational institutions and the labor market is a must for future of Qatar. The connection ‎between education and the labor market cannot be stressed enough, the Sheikha said, as one ‎necessarily eases the burden on the other. Highly educated graduates will need less training from ‎their employers and this will lead to a smooth and symbiotic relationship between the two ‎spheres. ‎

In conclusion, the Sheikha offered some recommendations for the effective application of ‎Qatarization policies to address the gender imbalance in the Qatari labor market. “Introducing a ‎quota system for women will not be easy, and there is a risk of moving too fast, even for those ‎companies that are most aggressively tackling Qatarization.” Further, Qatar should implement an ‎education policy that takes into account practical skills such as professional development ‎programs and entrepreneurship programs to help women become innovators and entrepreneurs. ‎The transfer of knowledge and acquiring job skills are long and arduous processes that need time ‎to take shape. Educational reform has occurred relatively recently and so not enough time has ‎passed to be able to assess the success of these campaigns. “For reforms to be effective, ‎evaluation of policies must become an essential component of the process of monitoring so that ‎initiates can be revised and improved based on measured outcomes,” she explained. ‎

Although women in Qatar play a huge role in community and social development, raising ‎awareness about the possibilities of contributing to the country’s economy is important. Sheikha ‎Moza bin Nasser and her daughter Sheikha Al Mayassa are great role models for Qatar, the ‎region, and the world. ‎

Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al-Thani is the chairperson and founder of Al Faleh Group, a land mark ‎in Qatar providing educational products and services of the highest quality. Three schools, ‎including Doha Academy, fall under the group’s umbrella. After graduating from Qatar ‎University with a Bachelor’s in Education and a Bachelor’s in English Literature, Sheikha Aisha ‎went on to get a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Hull in the United ‎Kingdom, followed by a Ph.D. in corporate governance from Cass Business School, at City ‎University, London. ‎ 

Article by Suzi Mirgani, Manager and Editor for CIRS Publications