For decades, Yemeni women's chances to be employed or to work in a competitive position were weak compared with men's opportunities. Yemeni society used to employ men in different jobs and positions as they believed that men were more able than women to work in public or even private sectors. The priority was always to employ men as the society limited the role of women to reproductive roles and dedicated the productive role for men. This society belief reduced the opportunity of women's participation and enrollment in the education system for decades and left them unskilled as a result. However, Yemen went through several events that restructured the mindset of the Yemeni society which led to a change in their belief towards women's ability to be active members of the public and private sectors.
Even though Yemeni women could be present within the public and private sectors, yet this presence was limited to lower levels. Moreover, the technical occupations were merely reserved to men, and it was rare to find women working in highly technical positions as technical occupations required technical skills that women merely have. Women's work was mostly focused on administrative tasks. According to the Global Gender Gap Report (2020), women’s economic participation and opportunity were the second-largest key gaps out of four mentioned in the report. The report demonstrated a deterioration in Yemen's Gender gap as Yemen ranked 115 in 2006 while ranked 155 in 2021 as a result of the collapse of the political and economic systems due to the current war. The report indicates that the rate of men labor force participation in 2020 is 72.2%, compared to 6.3% for women. Moreover, there is a huge gap between women and men who work in technical positions such as vocational work or even some managerial positions such as Monitoring and Evaluation specialists, as women represent 17% compared to 83% of men. Still, technical skills represent the future of employment, the Future Job Report (2020) issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that there are specific skills needed for the future such as 1) critical thinking and analysis, 2) problem solving, 3) self-management, 4) active learning, 5) resilience, 6) stress tolerance and flexibility. The exclusion of Yemeni women from the leadership or technical position as well as paying little attention to enroll women and girls in the technical courses at school weakens women and leads them to be less confident in their capacities. Also, Yemeni women, because of society's discrimination, became discouraged to compete or apply in more substantive work that requires high technical and leadership skills.
However, the war in Yemen caused some changes in the women's work environment. As Yemeni men were involved in armed battles or became disappointed with the general situation in Yemen, it pushed Yemeni women to overcome social and cultural restrictions and work in jobs usually occupied by men. Yemeni women's opportunities to work and to generate income had increased especially with the I/NOGs sector. The work in the I/NGOs sector has become favored by women and common in Yemen. The I/NGOs are trying to work according to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by UNDP which opened the gate in front of the women to work. There are a lot of opportunities for Yemeni women to work in the I/NGOs sector more than men as the fifth SDGs is achieving Gender Equality and giving more opportunities to women is helping to achieve gender balance in the labor market. Nowadays, women work in more technical occupations especially in the I/NGOs sector, but not in the public or private sectors. Yemeni society still deprioritizes women's work, especially for the most technical positions within the public and private sectors this is why women prefer more to work with I/NGOs.
Even though some examples prove that women can work and be involved in any type of work, most Yemeni women still suffer social exclusion for Yemeni women from more participation in the leadership and technical roles in the public and private sectors. For instance, in a focus group discussion about women's public participation with employed women in the public sector, one of the participants stated that she deserved a promotion in her career ladder that also increase the salary as well, yet her manager asked her to choose whither upgrading her employment degree or increase her salary as having both options will not be accepted by her male colleagues and that would cause tension in the department.
The presence of Yemeni women in the technical and economic field remains weak, the Gender Gap Report- issued by World Economic Forum- indicates that 6.6% of firms are owned by women, while 93.4% are owned by men. Also, firms with female top managers are 1.6% compared to 98.4% for men. The main reason is that women lack technical skills or leadership skills. This lack is not due to their nature as some men say. Instead, it is a result of the exclusion that women have suffered from in Yemeni society for decades.
Also, most of the support provided to Yemeni women is not focusing on strengthening their technical or personal capacities. Instead, it focuses more on providing relief services and building capacity to be more effective politically in a time that there is no space for politics in wartime. There is a need to work to increase women's technical capacities so that they can compete in the labor market side to side with men. However, women need also to work by themselves instead of waiting for support from a society that does not believe that women's work is a priority. Women need to consolidate and create syndicates or associations that aim to increase and build women's capacities in leadership. Also, the international community, which is providing support to Yemen, needs to reallocate its funds and adjust its plans in a way to empower women to be able to stand and fill leadership positions where there is an opportunity of doing so. In the end, it is a mutual responsibility of all society members to support women. Yet women are the ones required to lead this movement to achieve changes as they should not expect from a patriarchal society to do so.
World Economic Forum. (2020). The Future of Jobs Report. Retrieved from: The Future of Jobs Report 2020 | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)
World Economic Forum. (2020). Global Gender Gap Report. Retrieved from: Global Gender Gap Report 2020 | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)