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January 12, 2010

What It Costs to Be Me: Women's Average Salaries

amira mohsen

Photo Credit: Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures

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Broadcast journalist and publicist
Annual income: $14,700 (converted from Egyptian pounds)
Average income for a woman in Egypt: $2286

Home sweet home: "I pay $160 a month for a three-bedroom apartment I share with two roommates. It's very unusual for a woman to live on her own here — usually you live with your parents until you're married. But mine moved to the U.K. My landlord was very suspicious. He worried we'd be entertaining "gentleman callers."

Bills, bills, bills: "My single biggest monthly expense is my cell phone, which I use relentlessly for work. It costs me $80 a month, about 10 times what the typical person in Cairo pays."

Only in Egypt: "We have a free health-care system, but it's pretty bad. If you want to see a good doctor, you pay privately, which can cost as much as $20 a visit. That's a big hit to the average Egyptian's monthly income. So most people just don't go to doctors."

Meal plan: "As a journalist, I often get invited to press conferences where food is typically provided. Or I'll just grab some pizza in our cafeteria. Lunch rarely costs me more than $2. And when I can, I'll make dinner at home."

The weekender: "On my nights off, I'll go to a café with my friends, get a drink, and smoke a shisha [hookah]. Depending on the neighborhood we're in, I can spend as little as $1. If I'm with a guy, I never pay for anything. It's very bad form in Egypt for a man to let a woman pay, even if he's nothing more than a friend."

Jeans Index: "My priciest pair of jeans cost just $55 — but I don't wear them too often because of my profession."

Recessionomics: "Our economy was in such bad shape to begin with and was never really tied to the fate of the U.S. — I can't say it's affected me at all."

Checks and balances: "I never know how much I'll earn each month. Since I freelance for Egypt's national TV station, I get paid by the state, which is notoriously unreliable. Plus, the media business here is seasonal. The month of Ramadan, for instance, is a killer — no work at all. I live frugally, since I don't know what tomorrow will bring."

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