A recent report by Al Masah Capital, an alternative asset management and advisory firm that focuses on the MENA and Southeast Asia regions, highlights how women entrepreneurship has become an essential driver of economic expansion in the GCC.
The report, titled "GCC Women - Entrepreneurs in a New Economy," shows that the total female labor force participation rate for Arab states stands at 21 percent. Today, women represent 50 percent of entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the MENA region and manage approximately $385 billion of assets in the GCC countries.
“Women economic power has been growing exponentially in the GCC region on the back of bulging female population,” Akber Naqvi, executive director and head of asset management at Al Masah Capital, told the Gulf News Journal. “Women in GCC countries have broken through the glass ceiling and have established their credentials, participating in many industries and professions in traditionally male-dominated disciplines.”
The report shows the female population in the GCC has grown at a 10-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3 percent, which when coupled with successful modernization and progress in the field of education, has led to a higher growth of 6.8 percent CAGR in the female labor force. The report also highlights that with an impressive footprint in the trade and business segment in the GCC, women succeeded to hold approximately 20 to 25 percent of the approximate $2.2 trillion of high-net-worth assets across the GCC, which is up from $1.1 trillion in 2010.
“The report on GCC women entrepreneurship was solely based on secondary research carried out by Al Masah Capital’s research team,” Naqvi said. “The team went through a host of publicly available sources (databases, articles, reports, publications, surveys, etc.) to determine the different parameters used in the report and drew their conclusion.”
Naqvi said that women in the UAE are leading in entrepreneurship as more females are coming forward to turn their ideas into successful businesses. According to the 2014 Gender Gap Report, the UAE is a leader in the MENA region in terms of women’s education, health and politics and their representation in the workforce, thus closing the gender gap in business and government. The government has been continuously working on the existing issues and guarantees equal rights, allowing women to move up to higher levels in all sectors, including politics, the diplomatic service, aviation and law.
Naqvi added that according to the chairwoman of the Emirates Business Women Council, women now occupy seven out of 40 seats on the National Union Council; business-women account for 15 percent of board seats for UAE chambers of commerce; and women-owned businesses contribute approximately 10 percent of the total value of the private sector in the UAE. Besides, the UAE Ministry of Economy says women in the country contribute to nearly half of the SME sector, and 48 percent of female business owners in the country are the sole owners of their firms.
“Many of the GCC policymakers are actively addressing the existing challenges that are being faced by women entrepreneurs,” Naqvi said. “They have recently introduced a range of empowerment measures across the political, business and educational arenas to level the playing field for women in the workforce. On the other hand, women in the region are also defying the odds stacked against them in terms of gender, culture, and industry to build sustainable and profitable businesses.”