What makes the UAE such an open and accessible place for women entrepreneurs?

With female entrepreneurship in the UAE on the rise, women in business are helping to dispel the inaccurate myth that entrepreneurial opportunities here are rarely accessible to women.

Female entrepreneurs now account for 10% of the total private sector. The government now positively embraces the reality that women are critical to the country’s future economic development. So it’s no surprise that the UAE is now as accessible and supportive for female entrepreneurs as any other market in the world.

What’s behind that increasing accessibility? Here are four crucial areas where the UAE can help you excel.

1. Dedicated government support for women

The Dubai government formed the Dubai Women Establishment (DWE) in 2006 as a means of influencing policy at a federal level. The aim is to champion women as an integral part of Dubai’s socio-economic development.

Further progress has been achieved through the introduction of the UAE Gender Balance Council in 2015 to address the gender gap in federal institutions.

It’s fair to say that, far from simply paying lip service to equality, the government has been leading the charge to deliver real progress. Women now make up two thirds of the public sector workforce, with 30% of those in senior leadership positions. They also account for almost one quarter of the federal parliament.

Across the UAE, just under 50% of all public and private positions are held by women.

How can this help you as a female entrepreneur?

The government’s efforts have helped establish a more level playing field for women as they are increasingly seen as an economic force with massive potential in all sectors.

This in turn has led to a growing support network and vibrant civil society specifically in support of women’s issues. This will help overcome any remaining cultural or social obstacles such as access to affordable childcare.

Although some of the government’s initiatives have focused on Emirati women, their actions have nevertheless taken great strides for all women in business. In short, Emirati women have helped blaze a trail for more Emirati and expat women to succeed and prosper.

2. Female-focused third parties

From female-focused HR companies to women-only angel investors, there are many organisations in the UAE helping to boost the number of female entrepreneurs and increase their chances of success.

One such firm, Hopscotch, works exclusively with women and provides resourcing and training in the business world across MENA.

WOMENTUM, part of Dubai-based women-only angel group WOMENA, is an early-stage accelerator for female-led tech startups in the Middle East, with the aim of increasing the number of female entrepreneurs in the ecosystem.

Its network boasts one of the largest number of women entrepreneurs and investors in MENA.

How can this help you as a female entrepreneur?

Working with organisations that value what you’re doing and appreciate the specific challenges facing businesswomen in the UAE can give you a vital competitive edge.

As well as benefiting from professional services, you will also be tapping into a support network of likeminded women who are far more likely to be professionally, culturally and emotionally invested in your venture’s success.

The results of those benefits are clear to see. The UAE’s female entrepreneurs are more successful than their counterparts in the developed US market because of the available guidance, support and favourable ecosystem. In the UAE, one third of ventures established and run by women generate over USD 100,000, compared to just 13% in the US.

In turn, the UAE’s female entrepreneurs are more ambitious than their counterparts elsewhere, with 80% planning to expand their operations in the near future.

3. Ten-year visas for investors and entrepreneurs

The government has begun to grant long-term visas for up to ten years for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators. These changes underline what was already clear: the UAE is attracting entrepreneurs and a new generation of talent.

How can this help you as a female entrepreneur?

Long-term visas will provide stability as well as confidence and, as a result, would-be expat entrepreneurs are more likely to see the UAE as a long-term proposition. This, in turn, strengthens the country’s reputation as a global hub for business.

These reforms to the visa system will also have the effect of attracting a wider pool of male and female expertise to settle in the UAE long term, making the job of attracting talent for your startup that much easier.

4. Visas for expat widows and divorcees

Up until 2018, women sponsored by their husbands had to leave the UAE following a divorce. Widows were granted leave to stay and use up any remaining time on their residency visa before leaving.

As of last year, divorced and widowed expat women are now permitted to obtain a one-year visa for themselves and their dependants, with visas running from the date of divorce or death.

How can this help you as a female entrepreneur?

From a social perspective, official recognition of the difficulties of major changes in circumstances has two immediate effects. First, new visas will allow for the continuation of a child’s education with no unintended disruption. Second, divorced and widowed women can now follow a path to entrepreneurship more easily.

This is because women whose residency and right to work had previously depended solely on their husbands’ sponsorship are now eligible for a one-year visa in their own right. This gives potential women entrepreneurs the chance to assess their career options, financial situation and visa status.

With a change of status possible under the guise of a new venture, for example, that twelve-month period could allow potential founders to navigate a more secure route to launching their startup.

The march of the female ecosystem

With a government helping and supporting the SME sector, those tired old myths of inaccessibility for women are now being washed away with every new woman-led startup that launches.

In a country full of entrepreneurial opportunity, spirit and dedicated support, the march of the women-led SME ecosystem seems unstoppable.

Worldwide Formations helps entrepreneurs in the UAE with all their company setup needs. For more information, call us now on 800 FREE ZONE (800 3733 9663). 

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