Book details

Fifty Million Rising

The New Generation of Working Women Transforming the Muslim World

By Saadia Zahidi

About the Book

Across the Muslim world, representing a fifth of the global population, unprecedented numbers of women are going to work. In the span of just over a decade, millions have joined the workforce, giving them more earning and purchasing power and greater personal autonomy.

In Fifty Million Rising, award-winning economist Saadia Zahidi illuminates this discreet but momentous revolution by sifting through the data and relating the personal stories of the remarkable women who are at the forefront of this revolution-a McDonald's worker in Pakistan who has climbed the ranks to manager; the founder of an online hijab fashion startup in Indonesia; a widow in Egypt who owns a catering business with her daughter, against her son's wishes; and an executive in a Saudi corporation who is transforming the culture of her workplace; among many others. These women are challenging familial and social conventions, as well as compelling businesses to cater to women as both workers and consumers. More importantly, they are gaining the economic power that will upend entrenched cultural norms, re-shape how women are viewed in the Muslim world and elsewhere, and change the mindset of the next generation. Economics trumps culture-and then shapes culture.

Inspiring and deeply reported, Fifty Million Rising is a uniquely insightful portrait of a seismic shift with global significance, as Muslim women worldwide claim a seat at the table.

About the Author

Saadia Zahidi is head of Education, Gender and Work and a member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. She is a founder and coauthor of the WEF's Global Gender Gap, Human Capital and Future of Jobs reports. In 2013 and 2014, she was named one of BBC's 100 Women driving change in economics, politics, and society. She is the recipient of the FT/McKinsey Bracken Brower Prize, promoting young authors writing on emerging business themes, for this book.


"A much-needed celebration of courageous women, and a reminder that education for girls and women can transform our communities and our world."—Malala Yousafzai, Co-Founder, Malala Fund

"Work is a source of identity, meaning, dignity, and fulfilment for many of us. For the women who have joined the workforce in the Muslim world-and for their societies-it is nothing short of transformational. Fifty Million Rising is an indispensable guide to a unique and hopeful economic story."—Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

"Fifty Million Rising shows how digital technologies are enhancing opportunities for a new female workforce in the emerging markets of the Muslim world. If you care about technology and social inclusion, you need to read Saadia Zahidi's important book."—Erik Brynjolfsson, Professor at MIT and co-author of The Second Machine Age and Machine | Platform | Crowd

"A stirring read on the essential role of working women in the Muslim world. Saadia Zahidi deftly describes the personal and political, emotional and economic, local and global dynamics that are finally enabling women to gain the opportunity and the power that they deserve. The world will be a better place because of it."—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

"Zahidi makes her literary debut with an informative and revealing look at the work life of Muslim women throughout the Middle East and South, Central, and East Asia... A well-documented and fresh perspective on Muslim society."—Kirkus Reviews