Despite great gains in educational equality in the MENA region, only 28% of working age women enter the labour force, compared the 65% in OECD countries. Similarly, an estimated 20% of firms in the MENA region have female participation in ownership, compared to 32% in OECD countries.
Policy makers around the world increasingly recognise that gender equality is crucial to private sector development. Because women represent half of the world’s potential talent base, facilitating their participation in the labour force is a means of increasing a country’s competitiveness and relevance on the global marketplace.
With this as a backdrop, the MENA-OECD Investment Programme has initiated an ambitious undertaking to develop innovative ways of supporting the integration of women in MENA economies.
At the 2009 Business Forum and Women Business Leaders Summit, the OECD-MENA Women's Business Forum was tasked with spearheading implementation of the Action Plan on Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship and Employment in the MENA Region, which builds on the 2007 Ministerial Declaration on Fostering Women's Entrepreneurship in the MENA Region.
The OECD-MENA Women's Business Forum (WBF) brings together more than 150 women and men from business, government and civil society who are actively working to promote and support women’s economic empowerment in both MENA and non-MENA economies. Its roster includes: CEOs, managers, and entrepreneurs from MENA and OECD countries, as well as representatives of national, regional, and international businesswomen’s associations, civil society, regional and international organisations, and MENA and OECD governments.