How an influx of working women is changing the Muslim world.
Head of Education, Gender, and Work at the World Economic Forum, Zahidi makes her literary debut with an informative and revealing look at the work life of Muslim women throughout the Middle East and South, Central, and East Asia. Drawing from interviews in 16 countries with 200 women from different classes and professions, the author paints an optimistic picture of women’s increasing participation in the economies and politics of their communities. With policymakers and business leaders in mind, she bolsters her profiles of individual women with persuasive statistics about women’s work and its impact on family dynamics, businesses, and education. Since 2000, 50 million women have joined the workforce throughout the Muslim region, an unprecedented increase in less than a generation. Zahidi points to several reasons for this astonishing change: an expansion of girls’ education, with some governments, such as the United Arab Emirates, making “deliberate efforts” to bring educated women into the workforce; a decline in fertility, freeing women from prolonged infant care; increased funding for women-owned businesses; and technology, which allows women to work flexibly, connect with customers easily, and become exposed “to the aspirations of women around the world.” Crucial to women’s ability to work is the cooperation of husbands, brothers, and fathers; one woman, allowed to go to university, was held back from working by her father, who insisted “that she observe the strictest rules of female seclusion.” Zahidi was heartened to learn that educated women are seen as good marriage prospects, and the dual-career family is accepted—and even desired—by younger women and men who “have lost interest in reliving the traditional breadwinner and caregiving model of their own fathers and mothers.” Despite some legal and societal challenges that still exist to impede women’s agency, Zahidi looks forward to a “prosperous, dynamic” future for Muslim women.
A well-documented and fresh perspective on Muslim society.