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Women’s participation is ‘micro critical’, say panelists at GWFD 2020 session

Women’s participation is ‘micro critical’, say panelists at GWFD 2020 session
  • Session discusses challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the region
  • Panelists highlight importance of giving women a legal foundation in order to empower them
  • Partnerships between the public sector, private sector and international institutions are critical for benefiting from women’s participation, panelists said

Dubai, UAE; 16 February 2020: Women’s participation is ‘micro critical’ in the economy and their benefits to businesses though huge, remains underutilized, panelists at a Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020 session titled ‘Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in The Mena Region: New Solutions to Overcoming Barriers’ said.

In the session, panelists discussed the current challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the region and how investing in women is yielding huge returns for businesses around the world. 

GWFD 2020, which is taking place at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, UAE, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of Dubai, will conclude on 17 February. 

Participating in the discussion, Laura Lane, President, Global Public Affairs, UPS – USA, said woman employees represent a substantial part of the company. 

“Our CEO recognised that it is smart to invest in women-owned businesses. It wasn’t just the smart thing to do, it was good business,” said Laura Lane in the session moderated by Lubna Bouza, Editor-In-Chief, Business, Sky News Arabia. “Only one in five exporters are women owned businesses. We need to give more women opportunities to export because it promotes more trade,” she added. 

Lane said that many women face barriers that don’t allow them to move forward. “We want to expand opportunities for everyone, but many women have barriers to owning properties in certain areas. They can’t access financing, apply for loans or move freely around the country and market their businesses. We are all about teaching them the tools of trade, making them understand custom processes and how to package their products. We also show them how to have the tools and marketing opportunities.”

She emphasized the importance of giving women a legal foundation in order to empower them. “I was able to succeed in my career because of legal frameworks that support women. When laws changed, opportunities were created. We need to champion reforming laws.”

Also speaking in the session was Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation – Arab Republic of Egypt, who agreed that women’s participation brings valuable economic gains. “I think what has happened over time is the ability for us to quantify GDP, employment, productivity and even wage increases gained by men because as society becomes more productive, pay for men becomes higher,” she said. She added that partnerships between the public sector, private sector and international institutions are extremely important to gain from women’s participation.”

Heike Harmgart, Managing Director, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Jordan, said her organisation has a mandate to invest in women because it also believes it is good business. She shared her ideas on how women businesses can thrive and grow from micro to macro levels.

“It’s not just the financing, it’s the regulations, rules, innovation, technology and all the non-financial services that are critical for women-owned businesses to succeed. All these elements have to come together for them to thrive, to go further, innovate more, export and grow from micro to macro levels. Training and mentoring are the non-financial services that are critical for female and male owned enterprises to thrive, integrate and make the next leap.”

Al-Mashat, on the other hand, explained that women pay back loans more than men. However, the narrative on the topic is not shared. “We need to elevate the narrative. Forums like this and workshops highlighting success stories can open more doors for women to come in and provide gains to the society and economy.”

Meanwhile Panelist Nadia Al Saeed, CEO, Bank Al Etihad – Jordan, said her organization has launched a programme which provides a full banking proposition for women in Jordan. She said: “Women entrepreneurship is very important. No country can survive without innovation and increasingly women are actually taking hold of more wealth worldwide and controlling more companies.”

Al Saeed said factors responsible for the current gender employment gap in Jordan include the social role of women and their roles in the household. If public policy is able to handle equality in payroll, provide good transportation, and implement daycare at work, the rate of working women can be improved.

Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020 is organised by Dubai Women Establishment, which is led by Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and wife of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.
Building on its theme, ‘The Power of Influence’, Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020 will highlight how effective policies and partnerships in four key areas – Government, Economy, Society, and the Future – can further women’s positive impact for a better future.

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