Have new legislative measures truly empowered women economically?

Fatma Salah
7 Min Read

Gender equality is the fifth goal of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The state, aiming to fulfill this objective, has integrated it into its strategies. Numerous laws have been enacted to bolster women’s empowerment across ministries, authorities, and other governmental bodies, in addition to the launch of the Women Empowerment Strategy 2030.

A notable legislative move to empower women at the organizational level is the Financial Regulatory Authority Board’s mandate. It requires companies to include at least two women on their boards or ensure women comprise 25% of board members. Companies can voluntarily choose either option.

This mandate affects both companies listed on the Egyptian Exchange and those engaged in non-banking financial activities under the authority’s oversight, as well as related associations.

With these advancements, one wonders: Are legislative actions alone enough to economically empower women and amplify their contributions to the national economy?

Nermeen Tahoun, Founder of Tahoun Law Firm, asserts that women must be well-represented in legislative and judicial spheres to influence laws and address their genuine concerns. She notes the low female representation in the House of Representatives, advocating for an increase in the future.

Tahoun observes that women’s representation is particularly lacking in corporate legal roles, which are predominantly male-dominated. She argues for creating opportunities for women, given that male leadership in the workplace has not always yielded impressive results.

She underscores the importance of empowering women to ascend to top executive roles, leveraging their innate multitasking abilities to bolster the nation’s economy.

Tahoun calls for legislative revisions, procedural law updates, and changes to executive processes. These would enable women to represent society and the economy equitably, while also managing family responsibilities and sharing life’s burdens alongside men.

She highlights that addressing violence against women necessitates a cultural shift and the formation of specialized committees within police units to handle such crimes without leniency.

Tahoun mentions that Egyptian women currently need incentives to explore new ventures in diverse business sectors.

She emphasizes the need for women to exhibit determination and conquer apprehension to successfully lead projects across various domains.

Tahoun confirms the necessity for state-provided awareness, particularly as the government moves to pass laws that promote women’s employment. She acknowledges existing legislation but points out significant hurdles in its execution.

She notes the male dominance in legal consultancy and the challenges women face in competing in this field, including disparities in fees between female and male lawyers.

Tahoun concludes by addressing the difficulty in persuading clients of women’s capability to protect their rights, a challenge men seldom encounter.

She reveals that at Tahoun Law Firm, women constitute 65% of the workforce, versus 35% of men, showcasing the firm’s commitment to women’s empowerment and their active participation in the business world.

Marian Kaldas, Executive Director of the Egyptian Center for Arbitration and Settlement of Non-Banking Financial Disputes, has highlighted the challenges women face in arbitration due to societal biases. She notes that women’s representation in arbitration, both as arbitrators and lawyers, is significantly lower than that of men in Egypt.

Speaking with Daily News Egypt, Kaldas revealed that female arbitrators make up less than 5% of the total registered at the center, a figure consistent across similar Egyptian institutions.

The center is actively working to address this imbalance and promote fairness by considering the appointment of female arbitrators during the arbitration process. Currently, the Egyptian Arbitration Center is finalizing a protocol with an international body to prioritize the selection of women for these roles.

Kaldas stresses that comprehensive empowerment of women requires enhancing educational and training opportunities, developing leadership skills, supporting female entrepreneurship, and shifting societal norms to raise awareness about gender equality.

She advocates for legal and social reforms to strengthen women’s rights and help them balance professional and personal responsibilities.

Kaldas suggests that closing the gender gap in employment and pay can be achieved through transparent salary policies, addressing pay disparities, ensuring merit-based promotions, enforcing anti-discrimination measures, and regular assessments to maintain gender equality.

She proposes creating work environments that support women’s familial roles, like remote work options or flexible part-time schedules, proven effective during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A potential solution is the European model of salary-sharing, where two individuals can share a job role, dividing workdays and pay, thus offering women better work-life balance and greater participation in the workforce.

Kaldas references a 1999 World Bank study, “Corruption and Women in Government,” which found that women are more adept at identifying corruption, underscoring the societal and economic benefits of women in leadership and the workforce.

She points out recent legislative efforts in Egypt to bolster women’s rights, including constitutional amendments in 2014 that enshrine equal opportunities and gender equality in all aspects of life.

Finally, Kaldas notes the state’s commitment to ensuring fair representation of women in parliamentary councils and equal access to public and judicial positions, reflecting a move towards greater gender parity in governance. The evidence of the state’s implementation of constitutional provisions is the acceptance of applications for the appointment of women in judicial positions, public prosecutions, and the State Council, especially since the legislation has supported women with the support of political leadership.

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