International Women’s Day: Celebrating inspiring female entrepreneurs in the Middle East

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She can do it

From scientists to athletes, doctors, CEOs and authors, females in the Middle East are combating challenges and stereotypes so they won’t define them anymore. We believe that women should be celebrated every day, not only during the international women’s day, and this year for International Women’s Day we’re honoring the amazing and inspiring females who are making their own way. The region has no lack of outstanding females who are all worth being dubbed inspirational in so many ways. So in honor on the international women’s day and in this article, we will shed a light on some female entrepreneurship related facts and statistics. On top of that, we’ll share information on five inspirational female icons and entrepreneurs who run global brands that will motivate you. Are you ready to explore?

She is successful

The shift towards a modern and tech-driven world has led more women in the region towards entrepreneurship. Women are choosing entrepreneurship for many reasons; ambition, autonomy, work-life balance or flexibility.

A study has revealed that close to 33 percent of women-run enterprises in UAE generate revenues higher than $100,000 as compared with 13 percent in the US. 

According to the World Bank, the progress of the female entrepreneurs across the region is at par with their counterparts in Western Europe and North America. Moreover, female entrepreneurs in the region have the experience needed, as the average work experience in the UAE is six years and eleven years in Lebanon.

According to the International Finance Corporation, the MENA has the highest number of women as sole owners, with 40 percent in Lebanon, and 60 percent in Bahrain.

Related: Women in business: Overview of female entrepreneurship in the Middle East

Despite all these socioeconomic achievements of women and positive facts and statistics, females are still struggling with cultural constraints, social and traditional norms, gender equality, and personal and family reasons. Yet female entrepreneurial ambition and the motive for professional development has prevailed, and in the past couple of years investors and institutions in a collective action have started paving the way for female entrepreneurs with supporting initiatives.

Fighting for women’s rights should not be women’s job. Fighting for women’s rights in the region is everyone’s job and should start at the top.

With the rise of female entrepreneurship and empowerment and more recognition to women’s rights, came female focused support networks. An example of the female focused entities in the region is the Cherie Blaire Foundation that has pushed its efforts towards investing in women-led businesses in the MENA region. There also is UAE based Womena, which sources startups for direct angel investment and also mentors and educates women entrepreneurs for a more equal world. Entreprenelle the Egyptian social development and business impact organization mainly aims to support local women.

Such initiatives foster opportunities to network with and learn from successful entrepreneurs within the region and international marketplace. The region still needs an entrepreneurial environment that facilitates a cultural shift towards supporting female innovation and entrepreneurial aspirations.

On international women’s day: She is inspiring

international womens day female entrepreneurs

In the spirit of the International Women’s Day, we believe that every woman is inspiring. From the stay-at-home mother who dedicates her time and energy to her children, to the CEO who successfully leads a multinational corporation. And if you look closely in your public life, you’ll find amazing women making their own ways around you.

Gender equality, equal world, equal future, and women’s rights are all highly regarded social causes to pursue. Sadly, a lot of governments and companies claim to try and tackle gender parity close to home but not a lot is being done.

With that being said, here are five females that you should know about who are breaking the regional norms and staying ahead of the game and inspiring the next generation for an actual equal future and gender equality.

On international women’s day: She is an economist

According to Forbes Middle East, Lobna Helal is the second most powerful Arab Business Woman. Lobna Helal is navigating a male dominated realm and cuts through gender parity, as and first ever woman appointed as Deputy Governor of Egypt’s Central Bank (CBE). Hilal also holds key positions such as the deputy chair of the Egyptian Banking Institute and recently joined Telecom Egypt’s board.

On international women’s day: She is an entrepreneur and a beauty guru

Are you familiar with the brand ‘Huda Beauty’? Well who isn’t? Huda Kattan is the founder of Huda Beauty and has made a name for herself in the cosmetics industry in the past few years. She is now not only the highest paid influencer in the region, but also a successful self-made entrepreneur who’s redefining Middle Eastern Beauty standards along with her sisters Mona and Alya and many consider them to be women of the world.

Her brand, Huda beauty was crowned the most hyped celebrity brand by cosmetics business. Follow Huda’s Instagram and make success your New year’s theme.


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A post shared by HUDA KATTAN (@hudabeauty)

On international women’s day: She is a CEO

Dr. Amina Al Rustamani was ranked 9th out of the 100 most powerful Arab women in the Middle East in 2015. She is the chief executive of Tecom Investments, a business park operator owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and is responsible for developing the Dubai Design District, an area for the creative, design-oriented minds and companies of Dubai.

On international women’s day: She is an athlete

Raneem El Welily is the first Egyptian woman to rank number 1 in the world for any sport. She is a Squash champion and a star. In an interview with Scoop Empire when she was asked about the achievement that she’s most proud of she said: “Taking the title of the number one PSA World Ranking! Nicole David retained the title for nine years and winning it from her is the achievement I’m proud of the most.”

On international women’s day: She is a scientist

Dr. Hayat Sindi is a leading biotechnologist and the first Saudi Arabian woman accepted at Cambridge University in the field of Biotechnology. She is also the first woman from the Gulf to obtain a PhD in biotechnology from Cambridge. She has invented a machine combining the effects of light and ultra-sound for use in biotechnology. Her scientific research has awarded her prizes and recognitions worldwide, as she now serves as a visiting scholar at Harvard University. Additionally, she promotes science and education for Saudi women, and serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO.

On international women’s day: she is a founder and an entrepreneur.

Two of the most renowned female entrepreneurs in the region happen to be GoDaddy customers. As GoDaddy’s mission in the region has been to empower entrepreneurs to take their businesses online with small investments to showcase their innovation. We are proud to have been partners with Yara Bin Shakar of the Yara Bin Shakar brand and Zeina Ladki of Fltrd.

Yara Bin Shakar

Yara studied fashion design when it was first introduced and was one of the first to graduate with a fashion design degree in the UAE.

Yara decided to pursue her dream as a child and start her fashion brand. As a female entrepreneur. In our interview with her she said the most difficult things about being an entrepreneur are:

  1. You are not only responsible for your own income anymore; you have your employees and their families to think about as well.

  2. When you are in fashion design, you do not stop, you have to keep creating, keep designing, never stop innovating.

Zeina Ladki

As a fashion designer in the region, it is hard to make it because of international brands and their attractiveness. Local designers usually end up working for international brands to make a living. This is what fashion consultant, Zeina Ladki and her company Fltrd are trying to change.

Zeina worked for a consulting firm but decided to quit her “9 to 5 guaranteed salary at the end of the month” of a job and start her own consulting firm to empower local designers in the region. She explains:

I always believed in regional fashion designers and talents and thought they deserve a chance.

Support your dream with a strong online presence

In addition to these prominent female figures, we’ve interviewed several female entrepreneurs in the region who inspired us in different ways. You can check their success stories here and you can watch the video below:

Besides dedication, hard work and ambition these females have one thing in common; a professional website and online presence to support their dream.

To all the females out there, it’s never too late to make your dream a reality, and Happy International Women’s Day.

Image by: Hannah Busing via Unsplash.