In the past, women in the Gulf have benefited from economic growth in the region rather than contributed to it. Thanks to the region’s wealth, they have not been under pressure to enter the labour force or start their own businesses. And they have saved rather than invested their substantial wealth.
But this is changing. In this era of economic expansion, women are being encouraged to work or go into business. Governments, financial services companies and women themselves are recognising their potential.
If female entrepreneurs take the chance offered to them to marshal their financial and intellectual strength in an era of surging wealth, they will emerge as a powerful engine of private sector growth in the GCC.
The boom is a catalyst for change. In a time of increasing opportunities for all, women
are seizing the chance to enter the workplace. And greater numbers are launching commercial activities.
Recognition of the potential of female entrepreneurs is rising along with their numbers. There are 11,000 businesswomen in the UAE alone managing $4bn worth of investments. Women are no strangers to business. One in eight businesses in the region are owned by women and more than half of those are family enterprises.
As heads of large family conglomerates, women are shortcircuiting the corporate ladder to rise to the top. From that vantage point, they have the potential to shape the regional commercial landscape.
For younger entrepreneurs, a key attraction of setting up their own business is control of their time. This allows them to simultaneously pursue their business and family responsibilities. All the signs are that women entrepreneurs are approaching business with the goal of setting their own agenda.