Building an international network to help women leaders advance

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(The Government of Netherlands)

‘In the Palestinian Territories more women than men study information and communication technology, but after graduation women are three times less likely to find employment in this field,’ says Mona Demaidi, who owns a tech company. This is an issue that she and 11 other women leaders from the Middle East and North Africa have been brainstorming about as part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Women Leadership Programme.

‘Empowering women pays off,’ says Pascalle Grotenhuis, Dutch ambassador for women’s rights and gender equality. ‘Only 6% of those involved in peace talks are women, yet research shows that when women are involved in negotiations the chance of reaching a peaceful solution increases.’ Pascalle believes the world would be better off if there were more women at the top. ‘Not just in terms of world peace, but in terms of the global economy as well. Which is why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is investing in women political leaders and in businesswomen.’

In total, 12 women from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are participating in the Women Leadership Programme. ‘Over the course of the week we’ve been getting to know each other virtually. Hopefully next year the women will be able to come to the Netherlands and we can hold the sessions and workshops in person.

By sharing our experiences we learn from each other. That includes me. In the Netherlands men still earn more than women for the same work; there’s a 20% wage gap,’ say Pascalle. Yet there are other countries, she’s learned, where legislation is in place to close the gap, so it’s much less of an issue.

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