Cultural barriers, funding remain challenges for female entrepreneurs

DUBAI Although the number of women entrepreneurs is increasing across the world, they still face many challenges such as cultural barriers, and lack of funding, according to a top female corporate executive.

“One might think that we are indeed making major progress, most likely the number of women entrepreneurs is increasing but the reality is that they still face challenges,” Jamila Belabidi Chahid, Global Women Economic Empowerment and Global Innovation Purchases at Procter and Gamble.

Societal norms have to be changed by creating awareness to overcome the cultural barrier, she told Emirates News Agency, WAM, on the sidelines of the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai early this week, where she was a speaker.

“Wherever you go, you still see that funding is the main barrier,” she pointed out.

Sharing an example, the executive noted that a female entrepreneur that partnered with P and G, found it difficult to get financial support from banks in the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and Africa, IMEA, region.

“She was very ambitious and strongly performing and she could hit the next step but she was blocked as banks would not support her. Eventually, we have worked on some solutions but this is a basic hurdle,” Belabidi Chahid explained.

She went on to note that many female entrepreneurs had shared their frustrations about how often they are ignored in business meetings, while their male colleagues got more attention. “This is again another bias to fight,” the executive stressed.

The burden of family responsibilities is another hurdle for women, she pointed out.

“Equality at work does not happen without equality at home. If a woman needs to be the sole caregiver for her kids or parents and look after the housework once back home, this is an inhibitor to her full potential at work,” Belabidi Chahid explained.

Therefore, women get less time for networking than men, and do not get enough exposure to business networks, she said.

Asked whether the digital economy has helped women entrepreneurs, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries, she said, “Both yes and no.”

“Yes because they are no longer victims of discrimination as e commerce offers many more opportunities and less risk of discrimination. The best example I can think of is Alibaba where almost half of the vendors are women owned,” the executive explained.

Explaining her “No” in the answer, she said, in some underdeveloped markets, women are not as equally digitised as men are and this continues to nurture the gap.

In her work as an executive of Global Women Economic Empowerment and Global Innovation Purchases at her company, her area of focus is on enabling economic opportunities for women “through our women owned business programme.”

“In the Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa region, we aim to spend US$150 million on deliberately working with women owned businesses. This means we want to work with businesses led by women and provide them with opportunities to enable them to work with us,” she explained.

“If we can responsibly manage our spend, our value chain partners [50,000 suppliers globally] and drive them to do the same, we can create a massive ripple effect, developing sustainable and scalable programmes together,” Belabidi Chahid explained.

Source: WAM Emirates News Agency