Photo credit: TechWadi at Google by Salma El Hariry
Here at BarakaBits, we’re always on the lookout for innovation. So of course, when we heard about the unusual results that came out of this weekend’s Silicon Valley TechWadi panel on Arab Women Rising, we had to bring you the good news! The panel was on a popular subject; as TechWadi put it, “women-led high tech startups achieve 35% higher return on investment. In MENA we are witnessing the golden age of Arab women leaders, with higher percentages of female entrepreneurs as compared with Silicon Valley.”
So what was different about this panel? 1) It took the conversation beyond the expected. Panelist Dr. Rana el Kaliouby pointed out that the discussion moved far beyond what is a crucial, but only partial angle on female entrepreneurship in MENA: the word “female”. She emphasized, “one of the key messages of the panel and my main takeaway, is that as women entrepreneurs, we don’t want to be ‘victimized’. I certainly feel I’m empowered to go make things happen, and I know all the other women who were on the panel and in the room feel the same way too. The challenges we face are on par with the challenges any guy faces, everything from hiring, to fundraising, to defining a product, strategy, etc.”
2) It inspired continued action and new partnerships. Too often, the momentum gained during a conference is lost as the participants scatter back to their homes around the world. TechWadi’s panelists were so inspired by the event, the audience, and each other that they are putting together a task force for a “women-led initiative to propel the status and opportunities of female entrepreneurs both in the MENA region as well as globally”. Rana explained, “I’ve heard both men and women say that they were inspired by the ‘can do’ attitude of the panelists, and it sparked a healthy conversation around how the community can support more women in the region to start their own companies– if that’s what those women want to do.”
“Arab Women Rising” came at the end of a long, important, day, and marked the start of a long, important conversation. It reminded us that when we talk about female entrepreneurs in MENA, there’s room for debate.
And that’s #goodnews.
Nafeesa Syeed – Co-Author, Arab Women Rising
Rahilla Zafar – Managing Partner, Co-Author,Arab Women Rising
Rama Chakaki – Founder and CEO, BarakaBits
Dr. Rana El Kaliouby – Co-Founder and CSO, Affectiva