Women Entreprenenrship

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Women's Studies International Forum 34 (2011) 329–334

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Women's Studies International Forum
j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / w s i f

Female entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates: Legislative encouragements and cultural constraints
Valerie Priscilla Goby ⁎, Murat Sakir Erogul
College of Business Sciences, Zayed University, P.O. Box 19282, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

synopsis
Onlookers from outside the Middle East tend to view the region as an essentially hostile environment for women in non-traditional roles. While this perspective may be valid in certain contexts, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sets new standards of support for women in business ventures as it attempts to engage all its citizens in the economic and social development of this rapidly changing country. The present survey paper overviews for the international reader four key areas affecting the success of UAE female entrepreneurship: (1) the legislative attempts to enhance female entrepreneurial achievement; (2) the socio-cultural realities constraining women in business ventures; (3) the impact of the UAE's strongly collectivist culture on business networking among women; (4) UAE women's motivation for entrepreneurial endeavor given the abundant options for more secure employment. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Introduction
The purpose of this survey paper is to highlight for the
international reader some of the unique realities which
impact on female entrepreneurship in the UAE. These issues
depict a scenario of a particular kind of female empowerment against a backdrop of what to Western eyes would be regarded as significant female disempowerment. What
makes the UAE a compelling context for studying female
entrepreneurship is that it is a country in which traditional female roles are privileged, yet it is also the country with the world's highest rate of females in third-level education. This latter fact results from government agencies prioritizing

female engagement in business and public ventures in the
attempt to replace some of the country's vast numbers of
foreign workers with UAE citizens. Traditionally social values have curtailed female activity outside the home but recent
robust government intervention has sought to mold a rapidly
developing economy in which female figures can rise to
public forums, while at the same time adhering to traditionally enshrined female roles. In our survey, we look at the

⁎ Corresponding author.
0277-5395/$ – see front matter © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2011.04.006

increasingly important activity practice of networking in an environment where female movement is curtailed and
family-based and single-gender networking is overriding.
We also summarize the factors that motivate Emirati women
to become entrepreneurs in a country which offers them
more secure sources of income such as the government
sector, and we illustrate the empowering role of business
education for UAE women.

Business women in UAE history
In the pre-oil era, the UAE's economy revolved largely
around pearl diving, fishing, and maritime trading. These
were publicly regarded as strictly male-only activities.
However, it was not uncommon to find women engaging in
these commercial pursuits when they had no male provider
to help care for their children as a result of divorce,
widowhood, or husbands engaging in distant commercial
maritime activities (Ebrahim et al., 2008). During this period, some local women owned many ships and others conducted
trading (Abu Nasr, Khoury, & Azzam, 1985). However, such
women did not negotiate directly with non-related males but
required a male family member to act as intermediary. Their

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V.P. Goby, M.S. Erogul / Women's Studies International Forum 34 (2011) 329–334

business activities were well tolerated although they did not...
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