Dear 2021 - Trehana
I know writing to you is a little out of the blue, outside my purview even. Here I am, assuming that you and I are going to embark on some sort of friendly relationship. The truth is, I am an optimist, and I sometimes assume the best in everyone and every situation.
First of all, I want you to know where this is coming from. You see, when the Forbes Middle East so proudly broadcasted it’s top 10 most-funded startups of 2020, I was disheartened (as were other women fighting the battle of gender parity), but admittedly not surprised — to find the top 10 start-ups that made it through with a funding round were men funded by investment companies predominantly run by men.
So you see 2021, I am apprehensive of you. As amazing and great as you may be, I can’t help but be concerned about you. There is so much unknown. We are putting such high hopes on you being better, of doing better in reducing the gender gap. Can you possibly live up to our expectations this year?
Truth be told, as much as I try to put a positive spin on it, our relationship has been frayed. According to a recent Fortune article, 96% of VCs are run by men so one would expect this list to be gender imbalanced. The pandemic cornered women through fear, as it’s main tool, making them vulnerable due to a number of factors. Child care responsibilities, attitudinal bias and a slow recovery in the economy, has led to reduced spending on education that has forced women to leave the labor market permanently, are a few of them. There were days that this caused so much sadness, so much depression. This has left me a little apprehensive about entering into another year. Certainly you can understand that right?
Do you want to know what else 2020 did? With all the progress that has been made through the years there’s a risk now that progress could go into reverse.
Fundraising particularly for women is an uphill battle. According to the BCG, when women business owners pitch ideas to investors for early-stage capital. They receive significantly less,
a great difference that averages more than $1 million – than men.
The biggest hurdle women face now is limited funding. Women-led businesses are among the leading ventures that lack financial support. It is also common for women to be denied loans because of gender and cultural biases and with this pandemic, this is intensified. According to the Boston Consulting Group (www.bcg.com), if female entrepreneurs were treated equally in the economy, the global economy would rise by 3 to 6%, equal to about $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion. Female entrepreneurs currently add $5 trillion to the global wealth pool every year.
In Dubai, start-ups and SMEs make up 47% of the Emirates GDP. Half of the small-to-medium enterprise sector in the UAE is handled by women; further, 48 percent of women business owners are also the sole owners of their firms (Ministry of Economy UAE).
What do we expect? For starters, women are now actively participating in the startup movement disrupting various innovative start-up industries especially the tech field that is still very dominantly run by men. We need to have more organisations and investment companies with diversified leadership roles and invest equally in female-led businesses. We would like to see more female angels and female investment companies in this region. The gender gap and gender investment gap – all of that can stay in 2020. We don’t need to carry that baggage with us.
We need to move forward. Women are an integral part of the UAE’s economic future. Here at Vitality we support female/ female-led entrepreneurs on their business journey and as an angel investor or VC, have faith in the strength of women in business and the opportunities that will arise from supporting a female ecosystem.
So 2021, I know there is a lot of pressure but the status quo needs to change. There have never been better entrepreneurial opportunities for women to start businesses in the UAE than now and as an investor, this is the perfect place to increase investments and grow with these incredible women.
“Blooming Desert: The Top UAE-Based VCs and Their Tech Investments in One Infographic.” CB Insights Research, 22 Mar. 2017, www.cbinsights.com/research/uae-tech-startup-venture-capital-investment/. Accessed 12 Feb. 2021.
East, Forbes Middle. “These Are the Middle East’s Top 10 Most-Funded Startups 2020.” Forbes ME, www.forbesmiddleeast.com/innovation/startups/these-are-the-middle-easts-top-10-most-funded-startups-2020. Accessed 12 Feb. 2021.
Middle East – EN. (n.d.). Female-Led Startups Earn More. [online] Available at: https://www.bcg.com/en-mideast/news/6june2018-female-led-startups-earn-more.
Sadaqat, Rohma. “Entrepreneurship: Invest in What Women Bring to the Table.” Khaleej Times, www.khaleejtimes.com/business/local/entrepreneurship-invest-in-what-women-bring-to-the-table. Accessed 12 Feb. 2021.
www.economy.gov.ae. (n.d.). Sustainable Development. [online] Available at: https://www.economy.gov.ae/english/Knowledge-Section/SDGs/Pages/default.aspx [Accessed 12 Feb. 2021].
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