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FEATURE STORY March 30, 2021

Gender Equity Seal: A Key to Strengthening Egypt’s Private Sector


Egypt-specific findings show that that if female labor participation rate matched that of males, GDP would increase by 34%. However, women remain underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline, with the greatest disparity at senior levels of leadership.

Egyptian women represent 50% of the country’s population. A number of global studies confirm that businesses and companies that close their gender gap enjoy increased profitability. This means that when more women work, economies grow.

Egypt-specific findings show that that if female labor participation rate matched that of males’, GDP would increase by 34%. Additionally, findings related to the Egyptian financial sector suggest that women’s participation – especially at the executive and board levels – appears associated with greater financial resilience and bank stability. Those findings also suggest that ensuring women’s active participation in economic activity is essential for Egypt to achieve its vision 2030. However, women remain underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline, with the greatest disparity at senior levels of leadership. 

Providing women with a hospitable work environment will boost their participation in the economy and have to positive spillover effect that will improve the human capital outcomes of the country at large. Despite the huge potential Egyptian women have in strengthening their country’s private sector and overall economy, they still face myriad hindering factors that stop them from fulfilling that potential, such as culture barriers and workplace policies that are preferential to males. The World Bank’s 2019 Women Economic Empowerment study showed that while women are better represented in the Government and public sectors, as only 18% of the female workforce is employed in the private sector (compared to 36% in the government and public sectors combined). Furthermore, women, on average, get paid 34% less per hour than their male counterparts and are under-represented in boards of companies (9.7%) as well as in managerial positions (7.1%).

In efforts to promote, incentivize, and institutionalize gender equity in the Egyptian private sector, the World Bank partnered with the National Council for Women with the support of the UK embassy in Egypt to revive the Egyptian Gender Equity Seal (EGES) certification. This model promotes gender equity in the private sector by building a series of good practices in the areas of (i) recruitment; (ii) career development; (iii) family-work balance; and (iv) sexual harassment policies. It is guided by the World Bank’s Gender Equity Model (GEM), which identified the areas of focus and mapped out the needed actions to accomplish the model’s objectives in each area. 


The Gender Equity Model – launched globally by the Bank in 2001 – is a joint effort between the government and the participating private sector company. The World Bank provides the needed technical assistance to allow the firm to voluntarily adopt the GEM through a four-stage certification process: (i) commitment to the EGES principles and setting up a company’s internal gender equity committee; (ii) self-assessment to identify cultural barriers and gender gaps; (iii) action plan design and implementation; and (iv) pre-auditing, auditing, and certification (Gender Equity Seal). The main premise behind this certification process is to make the workspace more hospitable to women through a set of gender sensitive policies that promote gender equality such as access to childcare, flexible work arrangements, safe working space, and anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies.

The EGES certification was successfully implemented in Egypt between 2008 and 2010, and ten private sector companies were certified. After two years, companies would need to participate in another assessment to ensure they continue to improve gender equity and maintain the minimum required equity policies. Unfortunately, the initiative was stalled due to the aftermath of 2011 revolution. The EGES  was revived in 2020 with the relaunch of its certification process, which put in place an institutionalization system, including an operational manual and Training of Trainers guide to ensure the continuity and expansion of this process to any Egyptian company interested in endorsing the GEM principles. The idea is for the Women’s Business Development Centre under the National Council of Women to act as the government coordinating and executing agency that supports the company by providing technical assistance and facilitating the EGES process. 

With the EGES revival, two key private sector firms, which are among the country’s largest and most prominent, were awarded the certification on March 11th, 2021: The Commercial International Bank (CIB) and Vodafone Egypt

We are very proud to be awarded the EGES certificate. As a company with 33% of its work force being female and 25%  female upper management we have a firm belief that promoting gender equity is of benefit to our company as well as the economy as a whole and this is what the EGES will help us do better and in a more sustainable way,” said  Ayman Essam, External Affairs and Legal Director, Vodafone.

Empowering women is essential to sustainable development in many ways. Doing so through promoting gender equity in the work place is even more pressing in the wake of COVID-19, which is expected to have a bigger impact on women as it threatens to magnify existing inequalities and drive women to consider downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether.

Self-assessment is a very granular and revealing process that clearly lays out an institution’s strengths and weaknesses towards achieving a certain goal, which in our case with the EGES is establishing and institutionalizing gender equity work place policies,” said Dalia Abdel Kader, Chief Sustainability Officer, CIB. “ We are firm believers that Gender Equity equals growth. With the seal’s strong methodology and clear structure, we hope to further empower our female employees and overcome the challenges that stand in the way of doing that.” 

The crisis also represents an opportunity if companies make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace nurturing a culture in which women have equal opportunity to achieve their potential over the long term. 

We believe that women are half of the society, so we will not be successful unless our female employees are empowered. COVID-19 fast forwarded our goals towards revamping our flexible working policies which includes 3 days a week working from home. The EGES assessment will help us to further institutionalize the principles of gender equity workplace policies and accordingly attract and retain female talent that are very valuable to our company and to the sector at large,” added Nagla Kinawi, Human Resources Director, Vodafone.

Egyptian women are a very strong catalyst for growth in their country, and the World Bank is committed to continuously supporting them to thrive and fulfill their potential.