When you wake up in the morning, how do you know to be you? Unless you’re wearing a pair of pajamas with your name neatly inscribed on the top pocket, how do you know?
In those first few seconds of waking perhaps you reach for your phone, or tap into some memories, look at yourself in the mirror as you make your way to the bathroom or make a mental note of the tasks ahead for the day. It’s as if for a few seconds, you have the opportunity to be anyone you choose! Instead, you probably lock yourself back into being the person you believe yourself to be with all the memories from your past that allow you to slide back into your particular identity.
When you lock into your specific identity, it also locks you into certain patterns, and it’s our patterns in thinking and behaviour that create our response to circumstances and not the circumstances themselves.
Are you running patterns in thinking and behavior that are helping you or hindering you?
You have a pattern for being you. Your patterns in thinking literally become embedded in the network of brain cells and each time you repeat a particular thought the connection between those cells becomes stronger and stronger. All good and well if you are running a pattern of positive thinking, but if you are continually side-tracked by poor habits and pessimistic thoughts then you get stuck in a loop. That explains why some people find it so difficult to change. The more the negative thought loops run, the stronger the neural pathways become, and the more difficult it becomes to stop them!
Just for a moment, consider that If you change clothes, cars, where you live, your job, your hair style, your relationships and friends then surely it would make sense that you also need to change or update the programs and patterns stored at the unconscious level.
So the good news is that you have the ability to change the software in your brain; to literally change the way you think.
Mind your thoughts
Your thoughts create your reality and direct your outer world. Whatever you perceive outside of yourself, in people, in events, in situations, in circumstances are all actually projections from inside of you, like a reflection in a mirror. This means there is never a problem with another person, event or situation, it is simply a problem with how you are choosing to perceive that person, event or situation.
The key to solve the problem lies inside yourself. Look for the best in people, in events and in situations. When you change how you observe your world the outside world changes too!
Mind your language
Your thoughts are expressed though your language and the Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words. It’s unlikely that you are using a million different words each day, in fact, research indicates that the average woman uses up to about 20,000 words a day. What is more, you will also be using the same 100 words on a regular basis to describe your experiences. Pay attention to your language. You have the power to inspire and lift others through the language you use. What is more, the language you use to yourself has a huge impact on how you feel and your energy levels.
Your world literally comes into being by what you create with your thoughts and mind and when you begin to unlearn and let go of patterns that no longer serve you there are endless possibilities.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.