In many ways, the lives of working women and women entrepreneurs in the Arab world are slowly improving. In many countries there is a trend toward liberalization of laws, business regulations, and societies. This has created an unprecedented, if not short of breaking, glass ceiling in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for women.
By breaking stereotypes and paving the way for future generations, women entrepreneurs have emerged as a force to be reckoned with in many Arab economies. For example, entrepreneur Mona Ataya, founder and CEO of UAE-based Mumzworld, sees an under-supported market for mothers seeking guidance and assistance in making purchasing decisions. started a business dealing with Sarah Baden is one such person. She is the founder and CEO of Saraz Her Bag, empowering Lebanese women by providing jobs and preserving their cultural heritage.
Nevertheless, despite this progress, women-owned businesses still remain a minority in the region. Fewer than 5% of companies are led by women in MENA compared to the global average of up to 26%.
Fundraising can be an uphill battle for women in the region. The majority of MENA women entrepreneurs do not seek formal sources of funding, relying on savings and family support. Those seeking investment face unique challenges. According to a report by Wamda and TiE Dubai, her staggering 66% of female founders in MENA believe investors are less likely to invest in female-led startups. Their concern is the fact that less than her $50 million was invested in women-only startups in the first nine months of 2022, about 2% of total startup investment in the region during this period. backed by
To overcome this challenge, venture capital firms need to become more diverse and increase the number of women in decision-making power. Another form of support that helps entrepreneurs.
Networking is another obstacle facing women entrepreneurs in MENA. They are often shut out of male-dominated business environments. Building a strong network helps create social capital that facilitates collaboration and access to funding, providing a system that supports the entrepreneur’s journey. According to one study conducted in Turkey and her four MENA countries (Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt), published in Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, networking helps women entrepreneurs gain access to capital and new Discovering market opportunities.
Finding supportive and inclusive networks in the region is not easy, but some programs such as the Atlantic Council’s WIn Fellowship and groups such as the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) help women entrepreneurs We are creating a support system to connect with other founders. Become a mentor and grow your business.
Another challenge for women entrepreneurs in MENA is that women are still expected to focus on supporting their families rather than pursuing demanding careers. This contributes to the region’s female labor force participation rate, the lowest in the world (24.6%), half the global average.
Changing social pressures and expectations is a slow process. That’s why it’s so important to keep the spotlight on successful women entrepreneurs and other successful women in the region. Events like International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month are platforms that help women entrepreneurs and business leaders celebrate their achievements and share their stories. However, civil society and other organizations should strive to highlight such stories throughout the year so that young women and girls are powerful role models.
But increasing female entrepreneurship and business leadership in MENA is more than just a matter of gender equality, it is key to accelerating economic and social progress in the region. Private companies are fine. Research has repeatedly shown that companies with more women simply perform better. In a study of 1,069 leading companies in 35 countries, the researchers concluded that gender diversity improves company productivity in terms of market value and revenue.
As we commemorate and celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s pay tribute to the amazing women entrepreneur pioneers in the Middle East and North Africa. changing. But the public and private sectors must become proactive to truly create opportunities. Governments in the region need to develop policies that promote women’s employment opportunities and further support women’s entrepreneurship. In addition, private companies should help create a more welcoming business environment for women. This also benefits women. It’s time to take concrete action to maximize the power of women in business and support their success.
Lynn Monzer Associate Director of the Atlantic Council’s Empower Me Initiative at the Rafic Hariri Center in the Middle East.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Honoring MENA’s Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders
In honor of International Women’s Day, the Atlantic Council’s Empower ME asked business leaders and government officials in the Middle East to share their “shoutouts” about the female entrepreneurs or business leaders who inspire them.