On November 3, a group of prominent women business leaders highlighted the changing landscape of women’s entrepreneurship and its role in the GCC economies, calling for legal and administrative reforms for the benefit of the society. “Growing Aspirations: Supporting Women's Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf,” a panel discussion organized by DSG in partnership with Monitor Group and Al-Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Businesswomen Center in Saudi Arabia, highlighted a recently released report titled “Businesswomen in Saudi Arabia: Characteristics, Aspirations, and Challenges in a Regional Context.”
Authored by Monitor consultants Noura S. Alturki and Rebekah Braswell, the report captures fresh perspectives on the aspirations and challenges of businesswomen in Saudi Arabia, as compared with other women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa.
The DSG lecture emphasized intra-GCC relations and frameworks to address important questions for women, especially issues related to technology integration, legal and administrative reforms, and access to regional and international markets.
The speakers and panelists included Dr. May Al-Dabbagh, Director of the Gender and Public Policy Programme, DSG; Noura Al-Turki and Rebekah Braswell, Consultants at Monitor Group; Dr. Basmah Mosleh Omair, Executive Director of Al-Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Businesswomen Center; Samia Edrisi, Founding and Board Member of Businesswomen’s Forum in the Eastern Province, and CEO and Board Chairman of Eastern Forum Company for Advancement and Development; Raja Easa Al Gurg, President of the Dubai Businesswomen Council and Managing Director of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group; Sheikh Hussein Al-Banawi, CEO of Banawi Industrial Group; and, Fatima Al-Jaber, Chief Operating Officer, Al Jaber Group and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Businesswomen Council.
Dr May Al-Dabbagh emphasized the need to foster supportive networks for female entrepreneurs and establish best practices across the Gulf. She said: “The objective of our event is to have a research driven intra-regional discussion on ways to support women's leadership in business in the GCC. We need to move the discussions beyond women's micro-finance and home-based projects to match the aspirations of businesswomen in the region who are looking to play a leading role in heading small and medium-sized enterprises.”
Noura Alturki emphasized the importance of utilizing the policy recommendations of the recently published report she co-authored. Alturki said: “Through our discussions, we have highlighted the challenges businesswomen face in Saudi Arabia, including gender-differentiated government regulations, limited access to and use of formal capital, and the need for increased integration of sophisticated marketing and technology tools into business operations.”
Dr Basmah Mosleh Omair commented on the role of the Khadijah Center in Saudi Arabia. She said: “Since the founding of AlSayedah Khadijah Bint Khawilid Center in November 2004, we have been continuously working on the removal of the obstacles facing women entrepreneurs to empower them economically and therefore, socially. Working with the government sector, we are able to reform current legislations to enable policies to become more gender sensitive. We conduct research to enable us to continuously monitor the challenges facing businesswomen in order to develop tailored solutions to overcome them.”
Stressing the importance of building an entrepreneurial environment for women, Raja Easa Al Gurg said: “The next step is to consciously and deliberately begin to build entrepreneurship education, mentoring, and networking systems for women at all levels around the world. That way, 20 years from now every woman at every level will know of some organization providing new models for empowering people around the world and establishing the foundations for the transmission of a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem.”