This summer, in addition to my political blog, I'm going to help the excellent crew, ForbesWoman with the annual women of power list, a ranking of influential women in business Government and civil society.
One of my first tasks was identification contenders in the Middle East, and I'm noticed an odd trend: many women I am turning to work in finance.
There is huda Ali redha al-lawati, a principal at the Abraaj Capital based in Dubai, most large company of private capital of the region (and one of the largest in the world). There is ebru edin dildar, Garanti Bank the Turkey, second Commander of the second largest country. There is galia maor, Leumi Bank the CEO of Israel, a national institution which traces its history of Theodor Herzl himself. There was Dr. Nahed Taher, founder and CEO of Bahrain-based Gulf an investment bank, the first woman to run a bank in the Gulf.
How is it that in a region widely criticized for its oppression of women, the women are their progress in the field so often widely criticized, globally, to be an old boy club?
I asked the question Anne betteridge, who directs the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Arizona State University. His take? Although there are many barriers to the employment of women, in the region once a woman crosses the barrier for employment, it is not the obstacles preventing the choice of a field to another.
[It is the opposite of the situation, we are accustomed to in the West: that women are entitled to a career is finally considered as normal, but what roles they may have, and how much they can do, is still well in contention.]
In fact, Betteridge said, the women of the Middle East are more likely to win the support of their families and their peers for employment in areas which are prestigious and require an education. Finance is one of them. Recognizing that education is a form of autonomy that extend beyond their employment, "many women choose these fields to obtain education."
It should go without saying that this emphasis on the employment of women are related to education is limited to those who can afford an education for their children first. Education and therefore employment, remains largely out of reach for poor women, in the Middle East and elsewhere.
But the achievement of women in the Middle East in finance is still an important corrective to our perceptions of the region.
[updated 19/5/2011 8: 00 PM: Dr. Leila Ahmad, who is working on the equality between the sexes and religion at Harvard Divinity School, is another important point: strictly speaking, Islam protects the rights of women personal financial]including the right to inherit property and to keep the property after a divorce. [Of course, this vision of separate financial autonomy of employment in large part applies rich women, stressing more the divide of class in the female emancipation.]