Offbeat

The Rise of Female Entrepreneurs in the MENA Region

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How women are changing the world.


In the Middle East and North Africa region, women representation and visibility in the corporate world has always been very low; however, in recent years, the statistics have tremendously increased. Though this lack of representation in the corporate world remains, women continue to flock towards entrepreneurship with its great risk factors and work load, “The entrepreneurship culture in the MENA region is growing. Today, women are founding one of every four new startups, according to a report by Al Masah Capital, and managing assets, through SMBs in the GCC, worth $385 billion. Moreover, Christopher M. Schroeder reported in his book ‘Startup Rising’ that over a third of startups in the region are run by women – a higher percentage than in Silicon Valley.” This new phenomenon of female entrepreneurship not only changed the careers of many women in the region, but also changed the way these women are viewed and the way they view themselves as leaders of social, political, and economic change in their communities. This change is most probably the result of the revolutionary change in education, social development, and political environment.

Many of these MENA countries are gradually focusing more on the improvement of their educational systems by building entrepreneurially driven schools that completely shifted the mentality of people living in the region, especially women; when just thirty years ago, the greatest achievement an educated woman can make is becoming a doctor. Today, the shift in schools showed girls of newer generations the importance of women involvement in the economy. Schools now don’t just mainly focus on languages and sciences, but also include in their curriculum business education classes. In “Impact of Education and Training on Performance of Women Entrepreneurs” the authors of this study portray the impact that educational environments and training can have on female entrepreneurs, “A key assumption underlying these programs is that entrepreneurship skills can be taught and are not fixed personal characteristics. Indeed, it has been shown that the effect of general education as measured in years of schooling on entrepreneur performance is positive”. Creative entrepreneurial education expands the horizons of students. This type of education allows students to think differently and to become innovators and leaders rather than structured grey individuals.

This rise in women entrepreneurship is an extremely positive phenomenon. This increase not only improves these individuals own living conditions, but also positively impacts the region as a whole. The greater women participation there is in business the greater the economy will be and the higher GDP these countries will have. This will help communities flourish and tremendously reduce poverty. Other than the positive economic and communal effects their participation has on the region; it also creates social reform that transcends previous female movements existent in the region. It is a loud and clear call for the importance of gender equality. Through having this economic power, women will thus possess a greater voice in decision making. The economic progression for women changes their position in society and where they think they belong in their communities.

The newer generation which was exposed to entrepreneurial thinking see themselves as integral parts of their countries and communities. They understand their capabilities and believe in their ability to create value in their communities. Gender equality is no longer a privilege that a country should have in order to be seen as progressive, but a solution to world economic, political, and social issues. Women represent half of our communities, and their lack of representation in business portrays a tremendous amount of untapped human capital. This human capital could potentially be the solution that many communities in the MENA region need in order to solve many social and economic issues. Women entrepreneurship improves the well-being of families, reduces poverty, and stimulates economic growth. This exponential positive incline of women entrepreneurship in MENA countries such as Saudi Arabia shows a positive trend towards a brighter and more productive future for our societies.

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