Welcome Executive Women!  

Womena is happy to announce that we have a new ally in our journey to increase women’s opportunities and empowerment in the MENA region. Enter Executive Women, a magazine that serves as the perfect resource to women in business and female angel investors.

Executive Women provides a platform to highlight the achievements of inspiring women who are changing the face of business in the MENA region, including educators, humanitarian pioneers, media personalities, entrepreneurs, scientists and business leaders. In addition, Executive Women offers useful tips and coaching on business subjects such as leadership, management and career advice, as well as curated content on social events, fashion and culture. The website even offers a monthly personal development and wellness to do list.

The magazine was launched by the UAE chapter of the CEO Clubs Network Worldwide, one of the largest business networking clubs in the world. It’s accompanied by the CEO Clubs Business Women, a social club designed to provide MENA businesswomen with business opportunities, business development and support, as well as special women international delegations and networking events for ladies at all levels- from start-ups and sole traders through to director level.

Womena will be partnering with Executive Women throughout the coming year, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming events!

To learn more about Executive Women, head over to their website or contact them directly here.

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The road to parity: Understanding gender diversity in the UAE  

Gender equality is a hot topic with many reports, publications and news articles on the issue (and quite rightly so). The more conversations about this key issue in the public domain the better as it will lead to change. The conversations are now global and are taking place within the UAE and Middle East, which is a further promising sign.

It was timely then to see Naseba and the Ministry of the Economy jointly present “The road to parity: Understanding gender diversity in the UAE”. We highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in gender equality in the UAE as it’s an excellent read with some interesting insights into the progress women are making in the region. It follows the Global WIL Economic Forum that took place in Abu Dhabi on November 2nd and 3rd 2015 as part of the Women in Leadership Series. There numerous excellent discussions and panels for attendees to join and we look forward to attending 2016’s event.

The report shows that while there has been progress, there is still a lot of progress to be made. What struck us was the sometimes stark difference in the opinions between men and women on opportunities for women, particularly in regards to entrepreneurship and sitting on a board. While 74% of men thought women were given the same chance as men to become an entrepreneur, only 44% of women did. It shows to us at WOMENA there is a gap between men and women that needs to be bridged for full equality to take place.

There is a lot of interesting insights and analysis displayed in an easy to read format. We encourage you to read it and share your opinions in the comments below!

Diversity (or a lack thereof) at Startups  

Startups are doing some incredible things around the world. It’s a cliche but they have truly revolutionised our lives in every way. Unfortunately, this revolution does not extend to startups’ diversity.

It is well known that women and minorities are seriously underrepresented as founders and venture capital partners. We have actually gone backwards in female representation at VCs in the past 15 years. Until recently though, almost all research and data had looked at the senior levels of startups. What about the rest of the team? As Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou incisively wrote, the data just didn’t exist and was rather obfuscated to hide how poor diversity was.

Chou’s post led to growing pressure and clamour on some of the top technology companies in the world to release their diversity figures. Most of the largest tech companies now release annual reports on the state of their diversity and what they’re doing to improve.

It doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Here are some of the highlights (if you can call them that):

Despite the pressure to release diversity stats, there has not been a corresponding increase in representation. It’s going to be a long (and perhaps difficult) journey.

It’s not all bad though. Some companies have taken considerable and positive steps and for that we salute them. Perhaps the most admirable large tech company at the forefront of this movement is Pinterest. In a notable step, Pinterest publicly released their HR goals for 2016 a few months ago. Only last week, they introduced their first head of diversity, Candice Morgan.  Google also pledged to spend $150 million in 2015 on its diversity efforts.

Admittedly a few of the underlying causes of this lack of diversity go back many many years and are out of a tech company’s control. Far fewer women study computer science than men at university level and from a young age girls are put off science due to institutional and cultural reasons. Tech companies can only do so much to reverse this trend but this does not absolve them of all blame. The pressure on startups and tech companies to diversify their workforce must continue and they should become beacons of diversity.


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Deloitte Report on Women Investors  

We know women investors have a very important role to play in investment. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. So it’s always a satisfying feeling when we read a report from one of the world’s top financial institutions confirming this. Deloitte recently published the report: “Women investors: a critical and growing factor for success in the wealth management industry”. The report concludes that women investors present a significant opportunity for wealth management firms but specific capabilities will need to be developed.

Deloitte highlights some remarkable and revealing statistics to back up their arguments. Women control $20 trillion of the world’s wealth and two-thirds of women in the United States, the UK, China, Hong Kong and Singapore are the primary decision makers over household assets. Simply staggering numbers that extend to the UAE as well.

Deloitte recommends three changes to the way wealth management firms work for female investors:

  1. Serve the needs of the woman investor with financial education being particularly important
  2. Provide the deserved investor experience to ensure women feel the added value of financial advisors
  3. Cater to the investment preferences of women who are more likely to favour investments with a social impact

At WOMENA our angel investment platform is as flexible as possible for these very three reasons. Education is at the heart of what we do with our monthly workshops and personalised education syllabus for each member and the majority of the startups that have pitched to our members have a social impact.

To read the full report from Deloitte, click here.

Women Entrepreneurs and Crowdfunding  

Crowdfunding is one of the most recent developments in seed and angel investing. Companies that might otherwise have struggled to receive funding from angels or venture capitalists are now able to secure funding from this new source. Hardware companies in particular have had great success on crowdfunding websites with numerous success stories from around the world.

Eureeca has emerged as the leading crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs in the Middle East and is now expanding globally. Eureeca has received approval from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority so it is now regulated under UK law.

To coincide with their Pitch Event on Wednesday, November 25th, Heather Henyon, Investment Director at Eureeca, wrote this excellent post on LinkedIn. It’s well worth a read as it really dives into how women entrepreneurs can benefit from crowdfunding.

Elissa Featured in Arabian Business 100 Most Powerful Arab Women  

Earlier in March, Arabian Business released the highly anticipated “100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015”. This is an annual publication and really shows the excellent female talent across the Middle East. We were honoured that Arabian Business selected Cofounder Elissa Freiha as number 77 on this year’s list amidst so many incredible women.

It’s hard to know where to begin at extolling the achievements of so many incredible women. From Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi to the Saudi businesswoman Lubna Olayan, their achievements are endless and have had a huge and lasting impact on the region. It is exciting to see so many women involved in such a broad range of industries in the Middle East and we are looking forward to seeing what these women, and the millions of other women in the region, do over the next year.

Women Empowered Through Business in the Middle East  

On February 26, Al Iktissad Wal Aamal Group and Al Hasnaa Magazine hosted the 7th New Arab Women Forum (NAWF) in Beirut, Lebanon. Themed “Empowerment through Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” the event focused on women entrepreneurs and how they can help foster economic growth and employment in the region.

The event brought together regional leaders to discuss such topics as challenges faced by women, personal experiences and advice, which proved to be an insightful and motivational discussion for attendees.

For us here at WOMENA, some of the biggest takeaways from this event were the following statistics  revealed by panelists:

  • 60% of Zoomal’s projects are started by women, because “in my opinion women have better communication skills and determination”- Abdalla Absi, Lebanon, Zoomal
  • 30% of startups founded by women have more than 50 employees, and 15% have less than 10 employees. – Rana Salhab, Lebanon, Deloitte.
  • 100 billion dollars in Saudi banks [are] owned by women – Rana Salhab, Deloitte
  • Around 1700 entrepreneurs applied to Oasis500 programs, an equal percentage of which were men and women. – Youssef Hamidaddin, CEO Oasis500 Jordan
  • 38% of women are researchers in science and tech in MENA, versus 30% in Europe. – Bettina Bastian, Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, American University of Beirut

For more information about how you can contribute to economic growth and employment as a woman angel investor, please contact us and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up-to-date with WOMENA!

Adapted from Wamda.

Women in Leadership Around the World  

We recently came across this excellent graphic from SME Advisor about female leadership . It gives you a great sense of some of the strides women have made in business but also some of the hurdles. We hope WOMENA is part of the movement to give men and women an equal footing in the business world by providing women a space to invest in entrepreneurship and facilitating investment education.

While in the UAE women occupy 66% of government jobs and work on average 5.6 hours more than men a week, women occupy only 30% of senior jobs and ranked 115th in the world on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2014. Across the globe, the evidence is not much better either. 40% of companies don’t have a women on their board and only 3% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women.

We have definitely seen many positive steps taken by the government since we started to eliminate the gender gap, for which we applaud them. Equality isn’t going to happen overnight though, which is why we must continue to push hard.