DUBAI, 23 November 2021 – Business leaders have an obligation to mentor and support women in the workforce to aid their professional development and help them establish careers and businesses, a discussion at the Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai was told today (23 November).
Launching a two-year programme that aims to increase the number of opportunities available to female entrepreneurs, Laila Hatahet, Programme Specialist, UAE Liaison Office for the GCC, UN Women, said mentoring was one of the top strategies for closing the gender gap in entrepreneurship and leadership.
Laila Hatahet said: “In the UAE, 95 per cent of businesses are small to medium enterprises, and at least 50 per cent of these are women-owned … They employ about 20 per cent of the workforce and contribute to about 20 per cent of the GDP. One can only imagine the impact mentorship can have on these inspiring women and their businesses.”
Mentoring was one of the biggest needs identified by a 2020 survey conducted by Sharjah-based organisation NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and UN Women. The survey found that 60 per cent of women entrepreneurs in the UAE believe having a mentor through their journey would help them improve their businesses.
The NAMA and UN Women programme will create three six-month mentoring programmes that women can apply to be part of – as either a mentor or mentee. There will also be an accelerator programme to help women-owned businesses take control of their own future to create and launch a profitable business, a grow-your-business programme to help women expand their businesses, as well as pitching-for-investment events to improve skills on how to acquire investment opportunities.
A panel discussion moderated by Jane Bladanos, Consultant, UN Women Entrepreneurs, heard from Sheikha Al-Mutairi, Founder, MAD Group; Mariam Abdullah Ketit, Founder, Chikara Global; Julie Nguyen from Crunchmoms; and Zaher Ibrahim, Executive Vice President, Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and India, Baker Hughes.
Despite high rates of education, women in the MENA region comprise only 21 per cent of the workforce, Julie Nguyen said: “The lack of access to mentors, advisors, funding or even the confidence in managing work in home is restraining women from staying or being active in the workforce. Of the women that are in the workforce, about 70 per cent of them feel that they don’t have the right support from management.
“What we do at Crunchmoms is help them with their career and their home life after they become mothers or having the right networks for their professional career. That will keep them active. We need to make it easier for them to come back and also easier for them to stay. Women mentoring women is so important – it helps them gain access to opportunities and cultivates their confidence in an often still male-dominated business environment.”
Zaher Ibrahim said: “We take mentorship seriously in all our employee resource groups, and we’re leveraging this mentorship across all organisations, and we’re even creating programmes to drive this kind of mentorship circles that can create a domino effect towards the whole organisation, in the region and globally.”