What the media doesn’t tell you: Female entrepreneurship in the Middle East

Adina Neagu studies BSc International Business and Management at the University of Bradford and tells us about her trip to Qatar with the Business School.

Adina Neagu, BSc International Business and Management

Have you ever thought that you could travel, learn about the cultures in a completely different side of the world and see through all the stereotypes you’ve been exposed to, all while being a full-time student?

My best memories at university so far are the ones I gathered in the trips and projects that the University of Bradford has organised: short-term study trips, exchange programs, entrepreneurship projects with partners from countries as far as Qatar, Bahrain and China. They all changed my perspective on the world and encouraged me to become a better informed, more sensible global citizen.

The most recent trip I’ve taken part in took me to Doha, Qatar, a place I couldn’t even mentally picture if asked to do so. A futuristic mega-city where ancient Middle-Eastern culture meets cutting-edge architecture. The study trip, part of a bigger programme organised by the university in partnership with Qatar University, had the theme ‘Entrepreneurs without borders’, with a focus on encouraging female entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs without borders

There is a general image the global media portrays about the Middle East- gender differences and lack of opportunities in education and business for women, a culture that does not allow females to express their opinions or decide on their future.

When I pictured this image in a conversation with a female Qatari Computer-Science student and soon to be entrepreneur, she laughed and said ‘You couldn’t be more wrong. Women set the scene for many things here and the opportunities for us to succeed in the business world are numerous.’

At the Qatar Business Incubation Centre, 60% of the successfully incubated start-ups last year were established by females. The same scenario applies to other Doha-based institutions supporting entrepreneurship. The percentage became even more impressive when we learnt that most of them are on the process of expanding internationally.

From financial technology to beauty, health, education, tourism, these women change the way business is conducted in the Qatari market and beyond. The majority of the businesses come in either app or online platform format- a sign that technology has become an integrated part in delivering products and services to the modern customer pool.

These entrepreneurs are offered free office and production spaces, prototype laboratories, training, professional guidance and ongoing support for a period ranging from 1 to 3 years, depending on how the company is performing. 75% to 90% of start-ups fail, but the ones who manage to survive, learn the most in those two to three years from inception; they acquire market knowledge and ultimately succeed.

What the West should learn from countries such as Qatar is the fact that women come with a completely different skill set, they are naturally better at multi-tasking (as one of our hosts at the Digital Incubation Centre mentioned) and they tend to show more resilience when faced with difficult situations in their day-to-day tasks.

Investing in support and empowering women from all backgrounds to go out there, pitch their ideas and start building on products/services that would ultimately revolutionise the way we live- that’s an objective each country should set for the next decades.  Knowledge and talent know no gender.

Creating Opportunities

I have been thinking about the amount of knowledge I’ve managed to absorb in that week and I can assure you of one thing. My university choice shaped my experience, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been to and the things I learnt. And I couldn’t have made a better choice. Being a female entrepreneur is on my to-do list for the big future.

And it might be on yours, too.

I am forever grateful to the University of Bradford and the University of Qatar for enabling our delegation to experience a culture completely new to us, and to deepen our knowledge on female empowerment in the business sector.

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