The rankings do not take into account issues such as rules on segregation of women in the workforce. Businesses that employ women must either build special sections to accommodate them or risk being closed or fined.When I worked as a business consultant, I did a stint living and working in Bahrain, which is right off the coast of Saudi. We felt the proximity in more ways than one, especially since there was a causeway connecting the two lands, that Saudi men and women would head across on weekends, eager for freedom. For men, this often meant drinking and women, and for women this meant driving, trying on clothes in a mall, and being without male escorts. Many of our colleagues who worked in the Mideast office had clients in Saudi Arabia, but of course no female consultants could work there. I always thought our company should refuse to do business with Saudi under these conditions: like, we're a workplace that values gender equality, and if having you as a client precludes that, we're not interested. Of course, I was also told not to tell our clients I was Jewish, so I guess we were a long way from perfection on that score. But how, how can you be considered the 13th easiest place to do business, right between Thailand and Iceland, when 50% of the population can't do business there at all? Let's say a major bank wanted to set up a division there. Half of their workforce (ok, who are we kidding, a quarter) would be out of the running. How can they send their best people? What if a company that just wants to make a deal with a Saudi company. What do they do about their female executives at the meeting? (I'm honestly not sure--can they not come? Do they have to wait outside?) I repeat: How can it be easy to do business without half the population? If Saudi Arabia scores so highly, is the Doing Business Project really measuring the right things?
[Hat tip Institute on Women]