Lack of women’s rights are statistically linked to poverty. In fact, in many countries without gender inequality, women are not able to get education or legal representation, in addition to employment, creating a situation where women are significantly poorer than men, often while having to support children (Globalization101, n.d., p.17). Jordan is a country that is very male-dominant, where women have very limited rights and opportunities. In an effort to further women’s rights and employment in Jordan, there are a lot of obstacles.
What is Womenomics?
Womenomics is the idea that women play a critical role in economic growth, and that the advancement of women is linked to economic development (Oda, 2018). The fifth goal on The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals reflects this. The goal is “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” This is reinforced by the key performance indicator target 5.5, which says “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life” (United Nations, 2020). Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) studies show that an increase in female workforce participation results in faster economic growth.
In Jordan, womenomics is particularly important because there are deep-rooted thoughts about gender roles, keeping the women at home and the men at work and women in subordinate roles and men in leadership. As a result, there are only a few jobs open to women. Fixing this takes a shift in mindset from the entire culture. In the meantime, by employing only men, Jordan is employing only half of the possible productive workforce in the country (Jaber, 2014, p.1-2).
Textbooks in Jordan
Changing the core gender role ideas within Jordan requires not only shifts in policy, ideology, leadership, culture, but also in education. The current school curricula and Arabic textbooks in Jordan push gender roles and gender bias through cultural and ideological messaging. It is interesting that the textbooks have implicit messages that show women serving in typically female roles and men in typically male roles, and that these textbooks may be part of a hidden problem that is shaping the beliefs in Jordan and preventing women from participating in the workforce (Jaber, 2014, p.7). Out of 794 gender concepts studied in Jordan’s textbooks, 434 of these were negatively biased towards women, 129 were gender neutral, and 239 were gender positive (Jaber, 2014, p.18). The extreme majority of gender concepts in Jordan textbooks, which are written for male, are negative toward women. In pictures in the textbooks, 989 were pictures of males, while only 410 were pictures of females (Jaber, 2014, p.20). This is interesting and alarming because it shows that the inequality and gender bias towards women is prevalent in schools and highly influential in teaching the people of Jordan to grow up with a strong gender bias.
Strategies for Promoting Gender Equality
Mayyada Abu Jaber says that there needs to be a national coalition around womenomics (Jaber, 2014, p.3). It is apparent that Jordan needs to make a strategic transformation in policy, mindset, and education in order to make this shift, so they need to implement a change management plan that communicates the need for gender equality from an economic perspective to all people. Leadership in the country needs to promote womenomics and gender equality regardless of ideological perspective. In a region where there are strong opinions around gender roles and the place of women at the home, this campaign will be an uphill battle. Since women state that “cultural reasons or because their husbands and their families did not allow them to participate” is the root cause of lack of education, and “culture and the inability to make their own decisions deterred them from entering the workforce” (Jaber, 2014, p.5). Changing culture in a country where tradition, education, and ideology support uneducated, unemployed, submissive women is going to be the hardest step for Jordan.
The next strategy is to revamp the education system to include and encourage women to continue through school and make them a primary audience. This includes choosing textbooks and curricula which promote gender equality.
Womenomics in the United States
Although there are many corporations that are actively seeking to hire and promote women and improve diversity, the United States corporate systems and political systems still very much favor men. White women make an average of $13,186 per year less than men in the United States, and $527,440 less than men across 40 years of employment (Bleiweis, 2020). In federal government, only 24% of Congress is female. Only 18% of state governors are female. Only 23% of city mayors are female. In corporate leadership, only 7% of top executives in the Fortune 100 are women, and only 10% of top management positions in S&P 1500 companies are women (Warner, 2018). Women have a long, uphill battle in the United States for equality.
There is a very vocal push for more women in management and executive positions in United States corporations, and there is a lot of lip service regarding equal pay and diversity, so the U.S. is further down the womenomics journey than Jordan, but there is still a climb ahead. There are opportunities for a womenomics movement in the United States as well as more top-down policy and government leadership, in addition to corporate decision-making, that could further womenomics in the United States.
Jordan has a situation where they need more economic development, but their educational, ideological, and cultural systems need to be reformed in order to embrace women in education, in leadership, and at work. In a society where women are subservient to men, normally do not complete education, and do not go to work, it will take transformative change in order for the country to embrace women equality. A strong womenomics campaign and movement, embraced by political and religious leadership as well as the Ministry of Education, could push the cultural change further.
Bleiweis R. (2020). Quick Facts About the Gender Wage Gap. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2020/03/24/482141/quick-facts-gender-wage-gap/
Globalization101. (n.d.). Development and globalization. The LEVIN Institute. https://my.uopeople.edu/pluginfile.php/1097512/mod_book/chapter/268222/glob101devandglob.pdf
Jaber, M. A. (2014). Breaking through Glass Doors: A Gender Analysis of Womenomics in the Jordanian National Curriculum. Brookings Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/EchidnaAbu-Jaber2014Web.pdf
Knight, M. (2018). Womenomics: A Key Driver to Bridging the Gender Gap. Retrieved from https://focus.kornferry.com/leadership-and-talent/womenomics-a-key-driver-to-bridging-the-gender-gap/
Oda S., Reynolds, I. (2018). What is Womenomics, and Is It Working for Japan? Retrieved from https://www.bloombergquint.com/quicktakes/what-is-womenomics-and-is-it-working-for-japan-quicktake
United Nations. (2020). Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Retrieved from https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal5
Warner, J., Ellmann, N., Boesch, D. (2018). The Women’s Leadership Gap. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2018/11/20/461273/womens-leadership-gap-2/