Did you know that 35% of tech entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are women? Globally, tech is known to be a male dominated field, with just 10% of tech CEOs being female globally. Yet, the MENA region is more progressive when representing females in the tech sector. This is excellent news if you’re a tech-savvy woman in the MENA eager to start your own tech business or interested in conquering this sector.
In this article, we’ll take you through an overview of the tech sector in the MENA and how females are taking over. Moreover, we’ll dig deeper into entities supporting females in tech and finally we’ll shed a light on a success story of a female swaying the tech industry in the region.
Female role in the tech sector
The overall technology sector in the MENA is relatively small but it’s influential and growing rapidly. Representing just under 4% of the region’s economy, the industry accelerates social development by providing wider access to government, health care, education and a growing range of tech-enabled services.
The shift towards new communication and information technologies can provide the leap forward for women entrepreneurs, as female tech entrepreneurs have the potential to change the face of the MENA economy.
In many countries in the MENA region, mobile penetration has surpassed 100 hundred percent, which has resulted in an unprecedented reach of communication technologies. This has expanded not only how business is done, but has also helped in evolving the tech ecosystem to include more high-quality, inclusive jobs.
The survey results also state that across all markets in MENA, majority entrepreneurs consider workforce diversity to be very or relatively important for their company.
BNP Paribus report statistical figures that show women-run businesses have at least 9% higher revenues than businesses overall. All the data proves that the MENA region exudes an incredible precedence of influential female talent.
To top it off, one of three startups in the Arab world is founded or led by women, which is a much higher percentage than in Silicon Valley. To the region’s advantage, with tech innovation relatively new in the young, Arab entrepreneurial ecosystem, females are breaking barriers next to men in these new frontiers. This shifts global perceptions beyond female empowerment in the MENA region and towards global leadership from the region itself.
Supporting influential female entrepreneurs in the MENA
For a long time, female entrepreneurs in the region have faced challenges such as the lack of relevant business information and knowledge, as well as supportive networks. This has presented the need to create entities that support female entrepreneurs in the region.
With that goal in mind, womena® launched to bring more women into the region’s tech and entrepreneurship space. They initially started with an approach to inspire women to become angel investors in tech companies. Three years later, womena® had hit the 40-member investor mark and invested over $700,000 into Middle Eastern startups, of which 35% had a female founder.
Through ambitious and visionary goals, womena® has shaped a growing media platform, leading into the Womentum Series. With years of experience empowering and educating female investors and entrepreneurs, womena® has launched the first female-led tech accelerator in the region: Womentum.
Womentum’s first cohort ran with great success, which paved the way for more female-led tech startups to launch and scale in the market. A key factor to womena®’s success has been the networks of supporters and influential female mentors that enable them to succeed.
Another entity that supports influential females in tech is ArabWIC – Arab Women in Computing – which is a non-profit organization that aims to support, inspire, retain, encourage collaboration, increase the visibility and status of Arab women in computing, enabling them to achieve their career aspirations.
ArabWIC was founded by Professor Sana Odeh in 2012 and has built a community of more than 6000 Arab technical women (academics, students, entrepreneurs, VC’s, and industry professionals) from all over the world and has successfully created chapters in 19 countries.
Influential females illuminating in the tech sector
From the UAE to Oman, Egypt and Jordan, influential female entrepreneurs in the MENA are shattering stereotypes and shining. One of these figures is Mai Medhat, the co-founder and CEO of Eventtus. You recognize her on stage with US President Barack Obama, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other entrepreneurs at GES 2016 in Silicon Valley.
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Mai is a technology entrepreneur, who started to dream big while at college, and is on a mission to mobilize events with Eventtus. Her startup is a web platform and mobile app for events planning, networking and ticketing. Mai quit her job as a software engineer and started Eventtus in 2012, developing a basic web version as a concept that they could validate with event organizers.
Another prominent figure is Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, the Emirati Director General of Smart Dubai, the government organization entrusted with the city’s smart transformation. Bin Bishr is also the Chairperson of the Sustainable Development Goals 11 Global Council, a Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Councils and was selected as one of the world’s most influential Arabs for 2019 by Arabian Business.
Finally, Hind Bahwan is the Founder and Chairperson of Bahwan CyberTek (BCT), a global provider of digital transformation solutions and services. Bahwan is originally Omani, and has received several distinguished awards, including Ernst & Young’s ‘Oman’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2000’ and ‘Global Young Leader’ by the World Economic Forum in 2007.
Final remarks to influential female entrepreneurs
Today’s generation is setting the pillars and networks into place between women and paving the way for a brighter future for the upcoming female entrepreneurs. As International Women’s Day is coming up, our advice to you is to tap into the wisdom, advice and skillsets of women who have gone before you. Those who have nurtured success are supporters who can connect fresh founders to valuable insights, opportunities, and capital that often only come through referrals, particularly in the Middle East. We also encourage influential female entrepreneurs to tap into their community resources, build a network of support with people you trust, and give back as much as they can to help reach new milestones.