Characteristics of Female Entrepreneurs in the UAE in 2011

This post provides a condensed exert from the GEM UAE 2011 Report and is copyrighted material of the authors of the report. It can be downloaded here: UAE 2011 GEM Report If you would like to quote the report or this blog post please use the following details: 

Van Horne, C., Huang, V., and Al Awad, M. 2012. “UAE GEM Report 2011”, Zayed University, UAE

Women are regarded as a great resource in the Arab world that has not been tapped to its greatest potential. In the UAE over 60% of university students are women and many have the skills and the desire for independence that owning a business can give to them. 

According to a study by the United Nations, the UAE currently leads the Middle East and North Africa region in women's empowerment. Although significant progress had been made in empowering women (women currently represent 59 per cent of the total work force in the government) and youth from local communities through micro-finance, enterprise development, financial capability training, and youth education; entrepreneurship could serve as a vehicle for women and the young people to take an active role to ensure the country is to realize its milestones of becoming a knowledge based economy with strong social cohesion. 

From the data gathered with the most recent UAE GEM Report we can highlight the following challenges and hopeful signs.

Some challenges:
  • Female entrepreneurs are less likely than their male counterparts to know someone who has started a business in the past two years, and these role models are seen as an important part of the stimulus for budding entrepreneurs to make the leap from opportunity recognition to nascent entrepreneurship. 
  • Female entrepreneurs in general have less prior work experience than men (this is a regional challenge) and therefore have much lower rates of opportunity recognition through past experiences
Some hopeful signs:
  • Early stage female entrepreneurs are much more likely than men to expect job creation in the coming time period, 44.0% compared to 18.2%
  • Of all early stage entrepreneurs, 80% consider themselves just starting out, which would seem to indicate that more women than ever before are making the leap to becoming entrepreneurs.

Table 1: Characteristics of Female Entrepreneurs in the UAE in 2011

Knows someone who started a business in the past 2 years
Expected Job Growth of Established Business
Employed by others in Full-time work
Full-time Homemaker
Stage of Activity as Nascent Entrepreneurs
Stage of Activity as Baby Entrepreneurs
Informal Investors in the Last 3 Years

I have great hope that increasing numbers of young, middle-aged and even older women in the UAE will become entrepreneurs in the next few years - as an increase in work experience and larger professional networks allow them to more easily recognize and exploit opportunities. Whether through home based businesses or larger ventures the future for women entrepreneurs seems very positive indeed!

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