Women’s entrepreneurship is an integral part of the current global economic system and a growing trend here in Qatar, too.
Economists and academics agree that women entrepreneurs are essential for healthy economic growth, while also stressing the need to tap the potential of this “underutilised” force.
Steps have been taken in the right direction over the years, though it has not been all smooth sailing for women willing to take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship. The challenges are many, and bridging the gap is easier said than done.
But things have changed and positive developments are taking place around the world, as more and more women become a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Willing and able to face the challenges, many women have launched their own businesses after battling serious odds and breaking through the glass ceiling in the process.
Besides balancing business and family life and defying social expectations, one of the biggest challenges for women’s entrepreneurs is access to capital, especially equity-financing. Often, female entrepreneurs start a business with less capital than their male counterparts.
Such disparities would appear particularly odd when one considers that women entrepreneurs are “more ambitious and successful” than men, as observed in the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report. The survey polled around 2,600 high net worth entrepreneurs from 18 countries.
The “more successful” tag is justified in the report by referring to revenue data. Women-led businesses had 13% higher revenues than those run by men, the survey found.
Sceptics who think women are more emotional and less business-oriented need to take a look at the findings of the 2015 Kauffman Index on Startup Activity: “Women entrepreneurs are more adept than their male counterparts at seeing gaps in the market and seizing the opportunity.”, Feminine intuition, I would say.
In terms of women’s participation in the workforce, however, the Middle East is lagging behind many other regions.
The adult female participation rate in the labour workforce (age 25+) in the MENA region is only 25%, though it is higher in the GCC states at 32%. Also, only 24% of businesses in the region are owned by women. Locally, only 7% of legislative, senior official and management roles in Qatar are held by women, which is among the lowest worldwide.
On a brighter note, Qatari women have been found to be the most entrepreneurial in the Gulf region, and the Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC) plays a key role in supporting them in their ventures. According to the “GCC women entrepreneurs in a new economy” report, one-third of Qatar’s women are willing to set up and run their own businesses. Also, 6% of women here own companies – higher than the GCC rate.
What holds further promise for the new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs is that Qatar has one of the highest levels of female literacy in the MENA region. Also, around 59% of women in the country over the age of 25 years are registered as employed and working, compared to the MENA average of 25%.
Women have turned out to be major players in Qatar’s small and medium-sized sector and Aysha al-Mudahka, CEO of QBIC, is a perfect example of this. She has been ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful Arab women of 2016. She is also a social entrepreneur with her new baby cloth line, Baby Elephant, which is an eco-friendly brand.
On their part, some of the MENA governments have been doing their bit to narrow the gender gap and increase the role of women in the world of entrepreneurship. In particular, growing opportunities, changing attitudes and the presence of entities such as QBIC are helping the GCC states take the lead in this regard within the larger MENA region.
As they say, what is good for women is good for the economy!