Entrepreneurship among young Arab women has never been better, especially in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector which is now a stable option for women to succeed and flourish in the workplace in Qatar and the Middle East.
This is backed by recent findings from The Economist which show that women account for 35 percent of tech entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It’s an impressive statistic which bodes well for the future of progressive, educated Arab women in the technology sector, considering the global average stands at 10 percent.
With the number of small-to-medium technology firms in the MENA region steadily on the rise, women are playing a significant role in what has been dubbed the “start-up spring”. There are numerous reasons behind this new trend of entrepreneurship. For instance, working in the technology sector allows women to remain committed to traditional social norms.
Maaria Assami, Marketing Specialist, ictQATAR, explains that some women choose ICT careers because it gives balance to traditional living.
“I think many Arab women feel there is a certain degree of comfort that comes with starting up a web business,” Maaria says. “I know a lot of married women want the best of both worlds. They want to pursue a business idea and embrace entrepreneurship, and at the same time maintain respect for the traditions they were brought up with. Starting an online business, working from home is probably the best example of a beneficial compromise for a woman who may want to work and raise a family at the same time.”
“It’s interesting to see that half of university graduates in the MENA region are female, yet women only make up a fifth of the region’s workforce,” she adds. “I believe women should be continually encouraged to enter the working world, whether to join the workforce or work from home. The signs at the moment are positive and I think we are moving in the right direction.”
Support for women who want to venture into the tech sector is readily available. Many women who have already established themselves in the industry are reaching out to young entrepreneurs by holding conferences and training programs for working in technology. The TechWomen initiative launched by the U.S. State Department in 2010 serves this purpose. The program pairs dozens of female tech entrepreneurs in the MENA region with their American counterparts in Silicon Valley for weeks of professional peer mentoring, after which they return home with increased knowledge of how to further improve their businesses.
Closer to home, here at ictQATAR the Digital Incubation Center was established to make it easier for digital entrepreneurs to achieve success, especially in the technological fields. The center offers know-how and expertise to turn an idea into a viable business and has proven to be successful for many Qatari women.
With a major focus on increasing more online Arabic content and the need for Qatar to boost ICT jobs to 40,000 in the next two years, the importance of the trend women are setting in the industry will be integral to success.
Indeed, ICT is a tremendous equalizer when it comes to empowering women to be full participants in a knowledge-based society and there is no doubting that with support and encouragement things can only go from strength to strength from Qatar’s perspective.