MasterCard ( today announced the results of its latest Index of Women’s Advancement for the Middle East and Levant. The Index, which measures the socioeconomic level of women in relation to men, revealed an increasing recognition for women’s empowerment in recent years, signaling significant strides made by women in society.

The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement is part of a sustained effort by MasterCard to measure the socioeconomic standing of women across Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The Index is comprised of five indicators: Business Ownership, Business & Government Leadership, Workforce Participation, Regular Employment Opportunities and Tertiary Education . Each indicator measures the ratio of women to every 100 men in each of the markets covered by the research.

Scores are indexed to 100 to indicate how close or how far women in each market are to achieving socio-economic parity with men. A score under 100 indicates gender inequality in favor of males while a score above 100 indicates inequality in favor of females. A score of 100 indicates equality between the sexes. The Index and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

Georgette Tan, group head, Communications, Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa, commented: “Women’s socio-economic advancement starts at the basic level – from fostering confidence in girls through education, to giving women opportunities for skills development and regular employment. The results of the latest MasterCard Index show that even in challenging times societies are taking these issues seriously. We believe that increasing awareness about the important role of women in societies will ultimately improve their socio-economic standing.”

Frontrunners among the Middle East and Levant markets were Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates with overall scores of 69.0 and 67.5, respectively. Following close behind are Qatar (67.1), Kuwait (63.5) and Oman (63.4), while Lebanon (51.8), Egypt (49.8) and Saudi Arabia (36.9) complete the list.

All of the 8 markets have remained consistent or seen increases in their overall Index scores for at least the last three years. Of the Middle East and Levant markets, Egypt, Oman, the UAE and Qatar have seen increasing scores for the last three years.

Enrollment rates for women in tertiary institutions surpass men for most Middle East and Levant markets

In 7 of the 8 markets surveyed in the Middle East and Levant, women are on par or better represented in tertiary institutions than their male counterparts. This is the case in Qatar (558.7), Bahrain (273.1), Kuwait (243.1), the UAE (181.6), Oman (156.8), Lebanon (119.6) and Saudi Arabia (109.5).

It is also worth noting that, while not on par with men, women are also well represented in tertiary institutions in Egypt (85.4).

Moving towards a level playing field in terms of regular employment opportunities

In terms of regular employment, most markets included in the research offered equal opportunity for both men and women.

Lebanon, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar reflected parity scores above 100, and women in Kuwait (99.3) and Egypt (80.1) were also found to have strong employment opportunities as compared to males.

Room for growth in business/government leadership positions

There is room for growth in encouraging women to take up positions as business and government leaders in the Middle East and Levant. According to the scores of the latest index, women business/government leaders are better represented than their male counterparts only in Bahrain. It is interesting to note that there are 313.6 women business/government leaders to every 100 males in the same position in this market.

Women business/government leaders are also fairly well represented in the UAE (84.1), Oman (80.7) and Qatar (63.9). However, women are still underrepresented in this category in Saudi Arabia (53.5), Egypt (47.7), Kuwait (46.1) and Lebanon (27.8).

Discrepancies in workforce participation rates

Most Middle East and Levant markets ranked poorly in terms of workforce participation rates for women.

Qatar (54.3) and Kuwait (52.7) were the only markets with more than 50 women in the workforce for every 100 men, with the rest of the market scores reflecting even lower levels of workforce participation.

Gender disparity among small business owners

Female business owners in the Middle East and Levant still require greater economic and social empowerment. All markets in the region included in the research had fewer than 50 female business owners for every 100 male business owners.

Oman (38.9) scored the highest in this category, while Kuwait (22.9), Egypt (20.8) and Lebanon (14.4) had less women for every 100 men owning businesses in their country.

MasterCard’s research on women’s advancement has shown that while more women have access to tertiary education and job opportunities, there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to women owning their own businesses.

MasterCard and its Suite of Research Properties Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa

The MasterCard Worldwide Index suite in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa includes the long-running MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence, as well as the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement, Online Shopping, Index of Financial Literacy, and the Index of Global Destination Cities. In addition to the Indices, MasterCard’s research properties also include a range of consumer surveys including Ethical Spending and a series on Consumer Purchasing Priorities (covering Travel, Dining & Entertainment, Education, Money Management, Luxury and General Shopping).

MasterCard also regularly releases Insights reports providing analysis of business dynamics, financial policies and regulatory activities in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. Over 80 Insights reports have been produced since 2004.

MasterCard has also released a series of four books on Asian consumer insights, authored by Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Global Economic Advisor for MasterCard Worldwide and published by John Wiley & Sons.

About MasterCard Worldwide

MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a global payments and technology company. It operates the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the conversation on The Heart of Commerce Blog and subscribe for the latest news.

MasterCard Index Reveals Steady Socio-Economic Advancement for Women in Middle East and Levant

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