Davos Agenda

Here's how Jordan is advancing gender parity in the economy

In 2021 the Government of Jordan, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, launched the Gender Parity Accelerator.

In 2021 the Government of Jordan, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, launched the Gender Parity Accelerator. Image: Business and Professional Women Amman

Thanaa Al-Khasawneh
Executive Director, Business and Professional Women Amman
Julia Hakspiel
Action Lead. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice. Centre for the New Economy and Society, World Economic Forum
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  • Jordanian women are highly educated — they make up 56% of university graduates.
  • Despite this, female workforce participation rate is less than 15%.
  • To capitalise on the vast potential of Jordanian women, the country has partnered with the World Economic Forum to close gender gaps in the economy.

Gender parity is a cornerstone of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — but progress toward it varies drastically across regions and countries.

Jordan ranked 122 out of 146 countries and 5th in the Middle East and North Africa region in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Index.

Women make up 56% of university graduates, but the country has a 14.2% female workforce participation rate (compared to 62% for men) — one of the lowest rates for participation of women in the MENA region.

Have you read?

Jordanian women, companies and the country as a whole are failing to reap the returns from their investment in female education.

According to UNICEF, increasing female participation in the Jordanian labour force by 25% over the next seven years would grow the GDP by 5% annually. It’s not just the right thing to do — it’s a major opportunity.

Jordan's Gender Parity Accelerator

In pursuit of this goal, in 2021 the Government of Jordan, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, launched the Gender Parity Accelerator. The Accelerator is part of a network of 14 Gender Parity Accelerators convened globally by the Forum.

The Accelerator seeks to close gender gaps in workforce participation, pay, leadership and the future of work through public-private action. The Accelerator is co-chaired by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and Crown Prince Foundation on the public sector side, and Oasis500​, Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Bank al Etihad from the private sector.

The Accelerator’s implementation is managed by Business and Professional Women Amman, with funding and technical support also provided by UNICEF Jordan and the Jordanian National Commission for Women being part of the initiative as a strategic ally. In January 2023, the Accelerator co-chairs formally signed off on the Accelerator action plan for Jordan upon alignment with Jordan’s Economic Modernization Vision (2022-2032), the National Strategy for Women (2020-2025) and other major national initiatives and strategy documents.

Here are four ways the Accelerator will advance gender equity in the country.

Formalisation of female-owned businesses

In Jordan, informal employment represents 44% of total employment. Most women engaged in economic activity work in the informal sector, either as workers or business operators.

The informal nature of these businesses affects their capacity to expand their entrepreneurial ventures and increase their income, due to limited access to buyers, markets and finance. Workers in the informal sector also lack protection in the form of social protection, health insurance and labour regulations.

To support female-owned businesses to formalise and link them to formal value chains and buyers, local municipalities have introduced a new streamlined process for licensing. The innovative approach allows small-scale, home-based businesses to receive a formal license, allowing them to engage with larger buyers, secure financing and other business support and access the social protection system.

Under the Accelerator, the public and private sectors will be collaborating to further scale uptake of the licenses and link female-owned licensed businesses to domestic and export markets.

Addressing workplace sexual harassment

In March 2023, the Jordanian Parliament passed legislation that introduces fines to curb sexual harassment in the workplace. Business owners and managers will be liable to pay a fine for sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurs on workplace premises.

The law is a significant step forward in destigmatising the issue and is the first time the topic has been mentioned in national legislation. A 2017 study by the Jordanian National Commission for Women on harassment in Jordanian society found that 69% of respondents had experienced physical sexual harassment and that nearly 90% had experienced nonverbal and verbal sexual harassment.

The Jordan Gender Parity Accelerator will support the implementation of the law by working with companies to create safe and respectful workplaces for women by introducing policies and processes around the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Closing the gender pay gap

In Jordan, female professionals earn 33% less than their male counterparts. While Jordanian labour law outlaws gender-based wage discrimination in the workplace, oversight of whether companies are complying with the law has historically been weak. The Gender Parity Accelerator will work with the Ministry of Labour to strengthen oversight over companies’ compliance with the law, improve the collection and reporting of data by companies and raise awareness of the importance of equal pay, and ways women can file complaints against their employers.

Increasing high-level female participation

In Jordan, women represent only 12% of parliamentarians and 9% of ministerial positions, according to the 2022 Global Gender Gap Index. Women only hold 5% of board positions and around 78% of publicly traded companies have no women on their boards.

The Accelerator plans to work both with the public and private sectors to change this. In the public sector, the Accelerator will be working with key ministries to increase the representation of women in government committees charged with economic decision-making and designate gender focal points to be part of policy planning and policymaking processes. On the private sector side, the Accelerator will be providing capacity building, training, mentorship and networking opportunities to female leaders and working with companies to further diversify their boards.

Progress toward gender equity is critical not just for women and girls, but for society at large. By adopting these approaches, Jordan is taking decisive steps toward that goal — and in doing so, setting an example for others to follow.

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