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Women Entrepreneurship in the UAE Proposal

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Updated: Aug 7th, 2019

Problem definition

Women entrepreneurs in the UAE face a lot of challenges [1]. Studies indicate that despite the rapid growth of women entrepreneurs in both developed and developing countries, the issue of gender equality, particularly within the UAE cultural context, stands unresolved [2]. Entrepreneurship plays a significant role in boosting economic growth. Many developed nations embrace entrepreneurship without gender discrimination.

The UAE happens to be among the states that show impressive progress in economic growth, through encouraging entrepreneurship. Most of the women entrepreneurs in the United Arab Emirates participate in small-scale businesses, and hence receive little or no support [3].

However, women in the UAE go through lots of challenges running their own businesses [4]. There are several factors against women entrepreneurship in this region. These include cultural factors, religion restriction, opportunity recognition, work-family balance, motivation, gender discrimination, financial support, and performance among others [5].

Recognizing opportunities is a bit hard for the Emirates women, considering that gender differences are linked to the varying variables of human capital. The differences primarily revolve around work experiences and education. In the UAE, men are more advantaged than women, considering that their entrepreneur experience and management of employees is a bit higher. Researchers indicate that women have less human capital to invest in businesses compared to men [6].

This makes it hard for women to identify opportunities and utilize their potential skills, experience, and power. Women entrepreneurs in the UAE are less motivated than the ones in many developed countries. The restricted structure in labor markets of the UAE, demotivate women entrepreneurs on grounds of gender inequality.

In reference to financing, it is evident that the UAE women face capitalization challenges which deny them potential opportunities in entrepreneurship. The cultural and religious factors play a significant role in denying women right to own a businesses without the support of their male partners.

On the contrary, the women’s entrepreneurship experience in other countries such as Jordan and Kuwait is quite different. The recognition of women’s entrepreneurship’s contribution to economic growth is higher in these Arab countries compared to that of UAE. For instance, the Kuwait Economic Society implements projects that empower women. These projects enhance trade and investment.

They also focus on creating a business environment that supports women entrepreneurship. For instance, an already established KES program in Kuwait provides women with opportunities such as training, sharing of experience, business networking, and growth among others. In Jordan, there are numerous funded projects that create awareness of issues surrounding business environments. Here, women receive training concerning entrepreneur issues such as performance and decision making processes [7].

This promotes their entrepreneur projects. Jordan and Kuwait also strengthen legal awareness of issues surrounding women entrepreneurs. This increases the depth of their skills and techniques, and hence contributes a lot to the economic growth. Governments in the Arab Countries offer capital to women for starting new businesses. This promotes women entrepreneurship, and hence raises growth of economies. For instance, Saudi Arabia offers them 3,000 Saudi riyals every month to start new businesses [8].

There are several measures that should be put in place to help women entrepreneurs in UAE to overcome challenges in businesses. These include education, training, and support of the UAE governmental funds among others. These are some of the core competencies that developed nations use to grow their economies.

For instance, the UAE should copy some practices from countries like Kuwait, Jordan KSA, and other developed Arab countries, which encourage women entrepreneurship. These countries understand the importance of women entrepreneurs in economic growth, and hence employ strategies that influence them to become entrepreneurs. However it cannot be denied that the UAE has made a progress in addressing issues associated with the Emiratis women.

For instance, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Foundation in collaboration with the American University of Beirut came up with a plan supporting women innovation and entrepreneurship in 2008. New programs have also been introduced in the country enabling the emergence of many partnerships of women entrepreneurs and large corporations. In 2009, the chamber of commerce and industry registered more than 4,160 women as members [8].

Challenges facing Swedish entrepreneurs

Rojewski [9] shows that entrepreneurship and small firms play a significant role in economic growth. Entrepreneurship is considered as innovation. It drives people to create their own jobs, and hence improves their living standards [10]. The author identifies the obstacles that entrepreneurs go through, when starting businesses.

Most of the Swedish entrepreneurs, particularly the women, find impediments and challenges when starting businesses [11]. Through the use of a multinomial logit model regression, the author confirms that administrative costs and financial problems are the primary barriers to success of new businesses in Sweden [12].

In addition, the self-employed individuals who invest in manufacturing industries face many obstacles during the early stages of product development. In relation to the Emirates women entrepreneurs, it can be confirmed that women entrepreneurs in most parts of the world, particularly those in the developing world face lots of problems when starting their businesses.

Considering that the link between entrepreneurship and economic growth is positive, countries all over the world should modulate entrepreneurship. The UAE, for instance, needs to call off the cultural and religious barriers that restrict women from starting their own businesses. Economic growth enhances high living standards, and hence improves the lives of women who would have otherwise been left to depend on their husband for everything [13].

Women entrepreneurs in the UAE

Haan [14] gives a clear explanation concerning the UAE women entrepreneurs, their experiences in the field, and the roles played by public and private agencies in modulating entrepreneurship [14]. The author provides an analysis and a survey of 30 UAE women entrepreneurs.

The survey involves in-depth interviews concerning how they run their businesses, the challenges they face, and the support they get to pursue or continue running their enterprises. The Haan’s article provides a study about two different segments namely, the modern and traditional activities in the UAE women-managed enterprises.

The latter is engaged in the most recent economic activities. In incorporates advanced information and communication technologies and updated practices of businesses [15]. It is in most cases run by young UAE women, educated and business-oriented [16]. On the other hand, the traditional activities segment consists of simple manufacturing and trading [17].

The study in Haan’s article analyses the constraints faced by the UAE women entrepreneurs, and gives suggestions for the most appropriate recommendations. For instance, there is a need to formulate policies and create institutional capacity that promote women entrepreneurship. There is also a need for pursuing specific support services for segments, as well as the government support and other agencies in the UAE [18].

Entrepreneurship, Emirati perspective

El-Sokari et al [19] narrate that globalization, technological advances, and innovations among others are instrumental in the transformation of societies in the world [19]. However, there are challenges and opportunities associated with the aforementioned shifts particularly in women entrepreneurship.

According to the authors, for the UAE to become a fully transformed entrepreneurial nation, it has to inculcate entrepreneurship at an early stage. This should include teaching children at their early age about it, incorporating it in the education system, and using awareness platforms to inform, educate and influence people, particularly women, on the need to pursue entrepreneurship [20].

There is also a need to formulate policy insights to give policy makers a direction to assist them formulate efficient policies and programs to support the UAE women entrepreneurs. As mentioned earlier, the UAE has shown an impressive progress in the recent past with regards to social development and economic growth sustainability [20]. For instance, in 2011, the GEM study survey in 54 economies confirmed the UAE as one of the most innovation-driven country in the world.

However, the nation needs to continue making immense progress in strengthening entrepreneurship, particularly women entrepreneurship [21]. This will not only help them become creative and create new jobs, but also enable them to empower others to do the same. This will ensure that the future generations of the UAE will be vibrant both in entrepreneurship and in growing the country’s economy.

Women business owners in the UAE

In the article “Women business owners in the United Arab Emirates” it is clear that the UAE women entrepreneurs are more educated than those from Jordan, Tunisia, and Kuwait among other countries [22]. According to the survey conducted in UAE, more than 89% of women entrepreneurs have an optimistic outlook towards their businesses and the country’s economy at large [22].

More than 73% of the women surveyed focused on growth and expansion, but needed financial opportunities. Only 8% felt that running a business was disadvantageous for them. This confirms that most of them love managing their own businesses compared to those from other Arab nations [23].

Female business students in the Arab countries

Hossan, Parakandi, and Saber suggest that there are several barriers that restrict female students in the Middle East from pursuing entrepreneurship interests [24]. The authors analyze the strengths/opportunities, weaknesses/issues and challenges that these students get exposed to in the country.

From their research, it is evident that despite having potential to start ventures, these students lack enough knowledge about the organizations that support ventures [25]. Prior work experience and different entrepreneurship barriers, which are based on gender discrimination, deny women opportunities to participate in business ventures [26].

Research plan


The methodology employed in this study was designed in a manner that encouraged a cooperative environment. It also promoted good relations and networking among researchers and the UAE women entrepreneurs, and those from other Arab countries. It involved a 45 question survey, interview of 10 candidates, and in-depth interview/personal interviewing.

The data collected was saved in a computer software package, and then a comprehensive statistical analysis followed. The complete findings were then presented for final analysis.


Ten candidates who were set for the interview included the UAE women business owners. They shared their experiences before and after they started their businesses. For instance they talked about the challenges, opportunities, and the support they needed to make their businesses a success. They also mentioned the strategies that helped them succeed in entrepreneurship, despite the constraints that acted as barriers.

A 45 question survey

The researchers incorporated a 45 question survey. The candidates involved were required to answer these questions. This helped to know things that the candidates would not have shared with them through interviews only.


[1] A. Abdelkarim. Employment and Employability in a Small Oil Economy-the UAE, Maastricht, the Netherlands: Shaker Publishers, 2001.

[2] G.V. Priscilla, and M.S. Erogul. “Female Entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates: Legislative Encouragements and Cultural Constraints,” Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 329-334, 2011.

[3] K.I. Augsburg et al. Leadership and the Emirati Woman: Breaking the Glass Ceiling in the Arabian Gulf, Münster: Lit, 2009.

[4] F. Fiona. “Voices on Emiratization: The Impact of Emirati Culture on the Workforce Participation of National Women in the UAE Private Banking Sector,” Journal of Islamic Law & Culture, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 107-168, 2008.

[5] Z.J. Ács and S. László. The Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEINDEX), Boston: Now Publishers, 2009.

[6] A.H. Al Marzouqi and F. Nick. “An exploratory study of the under-representation of Emirate women in the United Arab Emirates’ information technology sector,” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, vol. 30, no. 7, pp. 544-562, 2011.

[7] W.W. Gasparski. Entrepreneurship: Values and Responsibility Praxiology, New Brunswick: Transaction, 2011.

[8] H. Itani et al. “United Arab Emirates female entrepreneurs: motivations and frustrations, ” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, vol. 30, no.5, pp. 409-424, 2011.

[9] J.W. Rojewski. International Perspectives on Workforce Education and Development, Greenwich, Conn: Information Age Publ, 2004.

[10] J. Winn. “Women entrepreneurs: can we remove the barriers?” The International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, vol. 1, no.3, pp. 381-397.

[11] D.B. Audretsch et al. Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

[12] K. Naser et al. “Factors that affect women entrepreneurs: evidence from an emerging economy,” International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. 17, no.3, pp. 225-247, 2009.

[13] M. Özbilgin and S. Jawad. Managing Gender Diversity in Asia: A Research Companion, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010.

[14] H. Haan. Small Enterprises: Women Entrepreneurs in the UAE, Labor Market Series No. 19, Dubai: TANMIA, 2004.

[15] L.N. Godwin, et al. “Forced to play by the rules? Theorizing how mixed‐sex founding teams benefit women entrepreneurs in male‐dominated contexts,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, vol. 30, no.5, pp. 623-642, 2006.

[16] L.S. Fielden and J.D. Marilyn. International Research Handbook on Successful Women Entrepreneurs, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub, 2010.

[17] S.Z. Ahmad. “Evidence of the characteristics of women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: an empirical investigation,” International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, vol. 3, no.2, pp. 123-143, 2011.

[18] M.A. Reavley, et al., “Exporting success: a two country comparison of women entrepreneurs in international trade,” International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, vol. 2, no.1, pp. 57-78, 2005.

[19] H. El-Sokari, et al., Entrepreneurship: An Emirati Perspective, Dubai: TANMIA, 2013.

[20] V. Mathew. “Women entrepreneurship in Middle East: understanding barriers and use of ICT for entrepreneurship development,” International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, vol. 6, no.2, pp. 163-181, 2010.

[21] K. Dechant and L. Asya. “Toward an understanding of Arab women entrepreneurs in Bahrain and Oman,” Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, vol. 10, no.02, pp. 123-140, 2005.

[22] Women business owners in the United Arab Emirates, 2007. [online].

[23] D. Jamali. “Constraints and opportunities facing women entrepreneurs in developing countries: a relational perspective”, Gender in Management: An International Journal, vol. 24, no.4, pp. 232-251, 2009.

[24] C. Hossan, M. Parakandi, and H. Saber. “Entrepreneurial Knowledge, Preferences and Barriers of Female Business Students in the Middle East,” Journal of Business and Policy Research, vol. 8, no.2, pp. 83-99, 2013.

[25] C. Hossan et al. “Entrepreneurial Knowledge, Preferences and Barriers of Female Business Students in the Middle East,” Journal of Business and Policy Research, vol. 8, no.2, pp. 83-99, 2013.

[26] M. Sudipa, and D. Varadarajan. “Students’ Attitude towards Entrepreneurship: Does Gender Matter in the UAE?” Foresight, vol. 15, no.4, pp. 278-293, 2013.

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