How female Arab entrepreneurs are inspiring change

It is important for people to work along with a government’s socio-economic reforms to help women thrive

Female entrepreneurship in the UAE grew by 68 per cent as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, according to LinkedIn. Getty
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For Arab women in the region, it’s not only a man’s world, it’s theirs, too.

Part of my daily routine includes reading different media websites and blogs where female entrepreneurs from around the globe reflect on the challenges and opportunities they face.

I find it particularly useful to learn from their experiences and how they have overcome hurdles thrown in their way.

As an entrepreneur, I have been in many discussions, especially with people abroad, who often wonder how it is for me, as an Arab woman, to navigate the business world.

Is it different? Does my culture present any challenges?

I love engaging in such discussions because it provides me with the opportunity to clarify any misconceptions, especially those that are a result of consuming western media productions.

Since I have been in the business world for more than a decade, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with female Arab entrepreneurs across sectors and I must admit that their perseverance and work ethics humble me.

I met a 12-year-old aspiring entrepreneur who knew exactly what business she wanted to venture into, and is already working on her business plan with the help of her entrepreneur father.

She spends her weekends watching educational videos on YouTube and assessing the competition.

A 2019 analysis by Boston Consulting Group found that if men and women participated equally as entrepreneurs, the global gross domestic product could potentially rise by about 3 per cent to 6 per cent, thus boosting the world economy by $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion.

Female Arab entrepreneurs are shattering stereotypes and taking the lead. Data proves this.

Female entrepreneurship in the UAE grew by 68 per cent as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, according to LinkedIn analysis published in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap report.

What is inspiring is that the UAE even surpassed the global average — at 43 per cent — of women founding businesses.

If we look at the past 50 years, our women have come a long way. But even in ancient times, our women were inspirational entrepreneurs and played an active role in the economy and developing society.

Khadija bint Khuwaylid, the Prophet Mohammed’s wife, was a successful entrepreneur who controlled one of the most important caravan routes in the Arab region.

Fatima Al-Fahiri, who founded the University of Al Qarawiyyin in Morocco, hailed from a wealthy family and invested in educational institutions and the dissemination of knowledge. The university is among the oldest and continuously operating educational institutions in the world.

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Things aren’t so different today. Arab women are leading and inspiring change.

Shamma Al Mazrui, the UAE’s Minister of State for Youth, became the world’s youngest minister when she was appointed in 2016.

Sofana Dahlan is an accomplished lawyer in Saudi Arabia, who founded the first all-women law firm in the kingdom.

The late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid is today one of the most renowned names in architecture.

To ensure that we continue seeing more successful female Arab entrepreneurs, people need to work in tandem with a government’s socio-economic reforms to help women thrive.

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Invest in them because when a female entrepreneur thrives, a future generation does, too
Manar Al Hinai

Economies in the Middle East and North Africa lose out on an estimated $2.7 trillion in additional GDP because of gender gaps, according to a 2015 McKinsey study.

While many initiatives and funds have been introduced since, we must not forget our roles as individuals in supporting female Arab entrepreneurs wherever we can.

Share your knowledge with them. Train them. And invest in them, because when a female entrepreneur thrives, a future generation does, too.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi

Updated: December 13, 2022, 7:01 AM
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