Expert Insight

Six challenges for women within the world of entrepreneurship . Eman Al Abdul Ghani


The Kuwaiti women have protruded in the world of finance and business for many years, where she is distinguished by her creativity, innovation and independence in many fields. However, despite her success in several sectors, she still faces societal, knowledge, and economic obstacles that hinder her development and prosperity. These challenges are compounded when talking about entrepreneurship and startup establishment.

 I will go through my personal experience, as the first Kuwaiti woman to establish a digital platform, and startup a digital magazine in 2017, at a time when digital platforms or digital business solutions were not common in Kuwait. As the platform was a digital content maker that shed light on many prominent success stories of Kuwaiti youth, and the method of establishing startups, as well as providing technical services to business owners; such as digital marketing and integrating companies with the web through platforms available for use by their clients and intermediaries, and I am proud to say that our experience in developing technological platforms and creating digital content has become our trademark within a short period. We as well, and without governmental or private support, we were able to bring together the intellectual and dynamic minds from inside and outside Kuwait through local and regional conferences, and present them on our digital platform, In addition to organizing several successful meetings between pioneers and investors to transfer expertise, knowledge, and exchange business opportunities. Furthermore, we endeavored through great efforts to encourage e-commerce and open horizons for international cooperation among entrepreneurs and contributed to creating and presenting a pioneering façade of Kuwaiti startup projects to the world. Despite the impressive success we have accomplished, especially in the early years, I have faced several obstacles and difficulties. From my experience,

I will present to the reader the six most important challenges that female entrepreneurs may face in our Arab world in general, and in Kuwait in particular:

  1. Timing:

The Start-Up Digital magazine and platform were established at a time when technology and digital platforms were of little interest to the Kuwaiti government institutions, investors, and individuals, therefore I had to make additional efforts to convince investors of the importance of creating such digital platforms. However, I was often subjected by major investors to plenty of marginalization and underestimation, resulting in psychological pressure due to their conviction that what I offer does not correspond to the trends of the Kuwaiti market, where the fashion and restaurants sectors were highly visible, and that my options as a woman should be limited to these sectors that are considered very successful and popular in the Arabian Gulf, and most of the prominent working women have succeeded in establishing fashion, beauty, retail, and food stores.

However, I had the exact contrary view, that prospects and opportunities are abundant in the digital field, and the process of encouraging the technology, digital platforms, manufacturing, and arts sectors provided promising opportunities within the Kuwaiti market.

2- Social expectations and community outlook:

Being an entrepreneur may make some matters more difficult, especially in Arab societies, which are male-dominated societies that view women in general as less efficient and less able to do business, especially in the technology, investment, and industrial sectors.

The lesser confidence in women and their ability to lead, influence, and innovate is a major barrier when delving into business-related issues. The journey to success of female entrepreneurs in our Arab societies remains very challenging, as they need twice as much effort as men to prove to others that they are trustworthy, and the decision-makers and investors may notice that she is skilled in business management, but their mindset is dominated by the prevailing idea that is common with the societal view which prefers the presence of women at home or working within a specific feminist and administrative framework that often depends on job stability away from risk.

This patriarchal system and the inferior look at women and their ability to accomplish certain operations negatively affect the main development goals, that must not be distinguished by physical, mental, and emotional classifications between the sexes. To combat this ideology, we must continue to push for more female empowerment, building leadership skills, and self-confidence, which are closely related to accomplishing the identity of a successful entrepreneur. Focus well on your goals, and work within supportive and encouraging circles that will help you continue and develop.

The Start-Up platform was and is still a pioneer in highlighting the experiences and journeys of successful women entrepreneurs, who managed to overcome that barrier, who are presented on our websites:

3- Dealing with limited access to funding and support:

     Capital is a major problem in entrepreneurship, in addition to the lack of Arab investors wishing to invest in emerging companies, in conjunction with the lack of business societies and accelerators in the Arab world that operate professionally. We are talking about Kuwait, the wealthy country, in which angelic and enterprising investment is scarce, and in which procedures related to financial borrowing for women's projects are difficult, while we have never heard of a fund to support women's projects, or of large companies allocate part of their profits to support Kuwaiti women's projects as an example. All these things make the opportunities to obtain financing for projects very limited and linked to borrowing risks, while the Kuwait Fund for Project Support has deviated from its path in developing and supporting projects, and I did not find any cooperation or support from them.

Therefore, I had to deal with this challenge by developing my personal, technical, and marketing skills. Additionally, being open to new emerging markets is very important at this stage, as well as resorting to international groups or entities that have recently emerged in the world to support female investors, and thus encourage women entrepreneurs and increase awareness and education about angel investment.

4- Innovative business and technology

There are certain sectors that men dominate, such as the industrial, technology, environmental sustainability, and artificial intelligence sectors, and it becomes difficult for women to be taken seriously in them and to accomplish personal success, especially within the Arab world, where it is often assumed that a woman’s success is achieved at the home, and not outside it, and most suitable businesses for women are centered around the food and fashion sectors.

In order to overcome these negative constraints, a woman must assimilate in the business world to which she belongs, and develop the knowledge and techniques of competitors. There are many initiatives that promote the acquisition of digital skills that are today a competitive advantage, and women can participate in various initiatives in the field of entrepreneurship, as the "Yasmine" society, which organizes various activities, seminars, and workshops in areas such as marketing, training, empowering women towards the use of smart applications and digital skills and getting to know other women's projects, providing women with important experiences that help her to learn about the organizational procedures for establishing a digital startup, and choosing the appropriate legal entity format for the project idea. Women should work today with several international organizations, such as the Global “Thinkers Forum initiative” based in Britain, while many of them are spread across the Arab world and can be easily reached via the different search platforms.

5- Achieving a balance between work and family life

This presents the biggest concern for women; it is natural for mothers, and women to experience feelings of guilt and negligence towards their children. Perhaps it is important to mention here the psychological pressure that a working mother is subjected to as a woman who has dual and extra responsibilities towards her work that requires great time and effort, her family, and her private life. The right decision is to establish a work-life balance and not to self-flagellate.

When launching the startup, one will have to work extra-long hours and under great pressure, requiring her to be highly disciplined in regards to timekeeping to achieve most productivity. Striking this balance may seem difficult at first, but over time one can reconcile the two. Women have to change the thinking patterns within the methodology of giving, which will help in overcoming this obstacle and know that the balance between life and work is a skill that both sexes need to ensure the prosperity and satisfaction that will inevitably be reflected on the children and will be a source of pride and will help to build a better future for them.

6- Dealing with the fear of failure

Failure is part of our journey in this life, and it is the way to explore our distant horizons. There is a real and very likely possibility in any commercial enterprise that it will fail over and over and the cycle is repeated, but this should not be an excuse or a reason to give up one's dream, but one must rather believe in her abilities and overcome moments of self-doubt and do not search for a theory of perfection in the project, or, wait for a large amount of funding, but study the market carefully, and choose an idea that meets the needs of one’s target audience, which at the same time is complimented by your financial capabilities at the beginning.

Furthermore, one should not be afraid of confronting society if the project falters, because this happens to the largest global projects, and even after their establishment, they may be exposed to waves and shocks that may be economic, political, or health-related as we see now from the great impact of the Covid 19 epidemic on all businesses and major companies, worldwide.

One’s integration into an innovative entrepreneurial world and groups that drive one forward is what matters; so make sure to communicate and be present in the initiatives related to your sector and your interests, which are your drivers and motivators, to build strategic relationships outside the framework you set for yourself.

Despite all these challenges in the Kuwaiti business environment, Kuwaiti women, through their efforts, have been able to constitute one of the most important motivators, change, and inspiration for other women in the fields of empowerment, technology, and innovation.

One of the most important elements of success that has shaped and crystallized the success of our company is digital skills, which are an added value for what services and programs we provide to our clients from different countries of the world. These technological and technical skills enhance the success of startups in an accelerating and changing world that requires more creativity and renewable technical knowledge.

It is worth noting that we in Kuwait are working in a very turbulent environment; where political interests, social norms, and the marginalization of many groups of society entangle. As pioneering Kuwaiti women, we work through individual efforts and look for local and global partnerships to drive change.

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