DOHA: Women in the Mena region are increasingly making a greater presence in the region’s corporate world. The number of women entrepreneurs is also on the rise in Mena.
The total number of working females in the region has increased at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.7 percent to 16.8m in 2011 from 11.2m in 2000. Rate of female participation in the labour force was up strongly in Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman in the GCC region, a report released by Alternative Asset Management Institution Al Masah Capital noted.
There is a general perception that female/women entrepreneurs in the Mena region run small firms employing fewer than 10 workers. This was proved wrong by a World Bank survey that found that more than 30 percent of women entrepreneurs in Mena owned large firms employing more than 250 workers.
Looking at sector specifics, female-owned firms were much like male-owned firms, with nearly 85 percent in manufacturing and 15 percent in services compared to 88 percent of male-owned firms in manufacturing and 10 percent in services.
The report noted that banks in Mena are targeting SMEs and women for growth. SMEs are targeted as they have high growth potential and have been offered much less banking support in the past. Banks consider women as an important customer segment. In recent times, women have been making their mark not just in education but also at work.
Women in the Mena region also hold significant amounts of wealth. Saudi women own 10 percent of the real estate and 30 percent of the brokerage accounts in the kingdom. They also own 40 percent of the family-run companies.
“There are no reliable estimates of the total amount of wealth controlled by Mena women. However, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group, women in the Middle East controlled 22 percent, or $500bn, of the region’s total Assets Under Management (AUM) in 2009. A majority of these ultra-wealthy women live in the oil and gas rich countries of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.”
Contrary to general perception, oil is not the main source of wealth creation for Mena women. The main source of their wealth generation is from the finance and banking sectors or from industries.
The report noted that at business places, women are mainly seen heading companies in sectors like banking and finance, construction, retail, media, transport, IT, telecoms and real estate. Out of 100 most powerful Arab women, a significant 42 percent are business women.
Mena women’s participation in decision-making is growing, but remains relatively small. Women hold a mere 1.5 percent of boardroom seats in GCC countries. Kuwait and Oman have the highest female representation in boardrooms, with a share of 2.7 percent and 2.3 percent respectively. Dubai was found to have the third highest proportion of female representation (1.2 percent), followed by Bahrain (1 percent), Abu Dhabi (0.6 percent) and Qatar (0.3 percent).