Women Entrepreneurship in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates is one of the greatest Arab nations that have been established as an independent state and possesses sovereignty. The nation’s government plays an integral role in protecting the freedom and rights of its people with the aim of building robust, trustworthy relationship among the citizens. The nation has thereby made tremendous progress as it is today regarded as one of the most economically stable countries in the world. The unprecedented state of economic growth and development in UAE is as a result of the dramatic increase in investments and entrepreneurship. Unlike the ancient days where women were culturally barred from participating in an array of activities, today, an average UAE woman is encouraged and allowed to participate in the ever-changing complex business world. This paper is thus written to describe the evolving role of women in UAE’s business sector.
Women Entrepreneurship in the UAE
Ever since the ancient days, UAE’s culture has been strongly affected and dictated by the Islamic religion, culture, and social norms. Even though the core values of the UAE society revolves around morals, status, honor, and reputation of the family, the women in the society were limited to only perform specific tasks. Therefore, women were destined to solely perform housechores and motherly duties. Young boys were prepared to serve as prominent businessmen in the future whereas young girls were socially trained to play the roles of mother and wife (Gallant & Niethammer, 2007). UAE’s deep-rooted cultural norms and religion doctrines made it extremely difficult for women to pursue entrepreneurship as well as their professional careers (Haan, 2004). However, today’s modernized era of industrialization and the booming economy has resulted to the reduction of the stringent cultural and social measures that were dictated on women during the olden days.
More women in the UAE are today encouraged to pursue education and obtain university degrees before getting married (Goby & Erogul, 2011). Additionally, during the pre-oil era, a few divorced women engaged themselves in business as they sought to solely fend basic needs for their children (Itani et al., 2011). These women-owned ships while others conducted trade but in the presence of the male relatives who acted as their intermediaries. This is because most women were not allowed to do business having been confined only to manage the household and participate in a variety of social, athletic, and cultural activities (Noack, 2009). As such, the pre-oil era recorded the highest illiteracy levels among women as the society did not view it imperative for women to pursue education. Unlike the pre-oil era, the current times have seen a significant increase in the population of UAE women studying abroad and working in different private and governmental sectors. The slight transformation of UAE’s religion, social and cultural norms have allowed women to perform family duties while also progressing in their careers. However, UAE still lags behind in the number of women entrepreneurs. This is because a vast majority of UAE’s families selectively encourage their female students to get jobs in the private or public organizations (Gallant & Niethammer, 2007). Thus, UAE continues to record a slow increase in the population of women joining the business world as entrepreneurs. The government’s initiative to educate the female UAE population has resulted in a drastic increase in the number of female university students. For instance, in 2000 after the enactment of new policies promoting female education, a lot of women went back to school with 76.8% of the student’s population pursuing higher education being women (Gallant & Niethammer, 2007).
In spite of the remarkable economic and political achievements made by the UAE women, the stereotyped images of women as housewives still remains to be a huge problem (Itani et al., 2011). According to Noack (2009), Emirati women are still restricted to pursue certain careers as they are strictly designated to the Emirati men. Thus, most UAE women were confined to work as nurses as the society viewed nursing as a ‘female profession’. It is for this profound reason that women in UAE continue to be underrepresented in the national and world’s labor market. The few female entrepreneurs faced arduous challenges such as; unequal opportunities, poor credibility, onerous family responsibilities, lack of recognition, gender segregation, and skill deficits (Itani et al., 2011). Furthermore, UAE’s collectivist cultures have hindered the progressive growth of entrepreneurship as the citizens have a low drive of joining the business world (Forster, 2017). Women with the desire to start their businesses are thereby restricted because of the fact that most of them cannot access well-established systems (Gallant & Niethammer, 2007). However, the UAE government has developed networking solutions to women entrepreneurs after establishing a formal business network for women in business, professional, and academic positions. The amendment of the UAE constitution has freed women from being confined to the limited form of lifestyle and traditions. This is because the constitution guarantees women equal rights to men in different sectors such as health care, legal status, and education (Gobby & Erogul, 2011). This has encouraged women to pursue education thereby promoting the aspect of entrepreneurship among UAE women. According to Forster (2017), the inclusion of Emirati women in the UAE workforce has dramatically affected the nation’s economic growth and development. According to a research study, significant economic growth would not be possible without increasing the number of women working as entrepreneurs. This is because women entrepreneurs are focused on the management aspects of the business (Haan, 2004). Additionally, women are considered to have proficient entrepreneurship skills that had been indirectly honed through the various traditional activities that they engaged in (Haan, 2004).
According to the recent research study, women constitute approximately 40% of the global workforce (Noack, 2009). However, there still exists a significant regional disparity in women participation in the national economies. It is thereby vital for UAE and MENA nations to encourage women to be entrepreneurs. According to conducted research studies, approximately 55% of the UAE women in entrepreneurship are also providers for their families (Gobby & Erogul, 2011). Over the recent years, the increasing involvement of the Emirati women in the business world has led to an increase in macroeconomic performance, GDP growth and an improvement in the general socio-economic indicators in UAE. To encourage more women to venture into entrepreneurship, the government needs to set aside funds that would be provided as loans for women requiring a start-up capital. Thus, the world’s economic development is strongly correlated with the level of participation of women as entrepreneurs and businesswomen in the national labor market. As more women become entrepreneurs, so does the number of employment opportunities also increase thereby catalyzing the country’s process of economic growth. Empowering women to act in different organizational sectors as entrepreneurs is thereby paramount in promoting a country’s overall level of economic prosperity and sustainability.
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