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There are many challenges faced by women globally in their bid to become world leaders. This is the reason why the number of women in leadership positions continues to be too small compared to that of men. In fact, it would be fair to say that this is a male dominated world. Despite the fact that women form the major proportion of the world’s population, this has not been reflected in leadership which is dominated by men. But what could be the problem or what makes women to lag behind in leadership? Leadership is determined by a number of factors some of which include education and culture.
Culture on the other hand influences the people’s attitudes towards leadership. Culture implies the traditionally accepted norms within the society. Culture defines a people’s way of life. It also assigns different roles to different sexes. Culture also determines to a great extent the opportunities to be availed to the different sexes by the community. It is unfortunate that most cultures around the world favor men and discriminates against women hence acting as a great impediment towards women leadership. This can be seen in the number of leadership positions held by women all over the world. If one considers the number of elective posts held by women across the world, the results will be shocking despite the fact that women form the majority voters. The same case applies to appointed posts of leadership. Even the United Nations organization has not appointed significant numbers of women to leadership. This paper aims at analyzing the challenges for global women leaders. The paper will emphasize on Arab women and how culture continues to be an impediment in their bid to become strong global leaders (Unna, 2005).
Similar to all other areas in the world, women found in the Arab world have traditionally faced cultural discrimination thus restricting their freedoms and rights .this has continually denied the women a chance to become global leaders. The discriminatory practices are mainly cultural and have their roots in traditions rather than the Islamic religion. The major cultural constraints that act as a barrier towards Arab women leadership are mostly seen in education, criminal justice laws healthcare and education (Woolf, 2006)
The sharia law under which most of these women operate prohibits women leadership. This explains the low numbers of women in leadership positions in the Arab world. For one to be a woman leader, she has to contend with being viewed as going against the sharia law. There have been some few women who have overcome the odds in the Muslim world and became respected leaders. Such women include the late Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan although her political ambition coasted her life. It is however surprising that no woman has ever become a state leader in the Arabic speaking countries. It is only of late that most of the Arab countries granted their women the right to vote in national elections. In fact, some of the countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia only allow women to run for local elective posts but not national elective posts. The cultural discrimination of women in politics makes Arab women to be the most under represented in parliament. According to international parliamentary union, only 6.5 percent of mps in the Arab states were women in 2005. This could only be explained by the culture that prohibits women from leadership since women who seek for leadership positions are seen as going against the societal norms. However, women have struggled to overcome this belief. For example in 2006, women in UAE stood for parliamentary elections although only one was directly elected. The government further appointed eight more women to the parliament. The role of women in political leadership in the Muslim world is greatly determined by cultural attitude towards women participation in public life. Dr. Rola Dashit who ran for a parliamentary seat in Kuwait during the 2006 polls blamed negative cultural attitude on her failure. In fact, women were discouraged against voting for fellow women there was also malicious gossip against female candidates and attacks on female banners (Jared, 2007).
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According to the Arabian culture, it is men’s work to give food to their families and also provide other supplies. Therefore, they have to work hard as their women remain at home and take care of their children. This is why women rag behind in economic leadership. This could also explain why women rag behind in leadership since their economic dormancy denies them financial resources with which to pursue global leadership. It is only of late that the attitude is changing and more women have penetrated the work force though their numbers are still low. Culture has also affected the Arabian women access to formal education in that it is men who are prioritized in accessing education. As such, women are always challenged by the more educated male elite. Lack of education on the other hand prohibits Arabian women access to leadership positions. The Arabian culture also compels women to wear certain types of clothing like the abayas in Saudi Arabia. The clothing is enforced by religious police. According to some women, the clothing restricts women participation in economic activities and leadership positions (Beck, 2008).
Women in Arab countries face various levels of difficulty in travelling freely in their countries and outside their countries. This is also a cultural impediment to Arabian women participation in global leadership. Some Arabian countries prohibit their women from travelling alone ever. In some Arabian countries, women do travel freely but have to contend with a greater probability of sexual assault than experienced elsewhere. In fact, women do not have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. A male relative has a right to prohibit women from leaving their country. There is no legal provision for women to go against this. The Arabian culture also compels women to ask for permission from their husbands and fathers before they can travel. Their ability to participate in global leadership is therefore dependent on the will of men since they are not able to travel without their consent. Other cultures restrict women from leaving their countries without their husband’s permission regardless of whether they are living together. It is only in 2008 that the Saudi Arabian parliament passed a law compelling men whose wives are not Saudis to allow them travel freely in and out of the country. However, this does not apply to those who marry Arabian women. If Arab women cannot travel freely, then their ability to participate in global leadership is greatly reduced (Jetsam, 2004).
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From the analysis above, it is true that culture acts as a great challenge to Arab women who may wish to participate in global leadership. If the culture prohibits women from being leaders, the society cannot grant them leadership positions. The culture allows for too much domination by men than is necessary. Their ability to participate in global leadership is therefore dependent on the will of men. Women cannot actively participate in global leadership without proper education. They cannot participate in leadership positions without the right health. For the women to be leaders, they must be able to travel freely. Therefore, any culture that restricts the rights of any group of people needs to be re examined. It is only by re-examining the culture that the Arab women will be able to actively participate in global leadership.