Doing Business as a Female Entrepreneur in the UAE


With its booming economy and investment reforms, the United Arab Emirates has become a magnet for entrepreneurial women. Scott McCulloch reports.

Go east, young woman – east, to the United Arab Emirates  

Once a quiet backwater, the UAE is one of the Middle East’s most powerful economic centres – and lure for entrepreneurial women.  

There’s no shortage of dynamic females who’ve tapped the Emirates’ eastern promise. 

Celebrity stylist Kelly Lundberg is a case in point. Edinburgh-born Lundberg moved to the UAE 15 years ago, where she’s become the trend-setting style guru she is today.  

US-born Huda Kattan is another. Known in the cosmetic world for her Huda Beauty products, Kattan made her breakthrough in Dubai. She now sits atop a billion-dollar brand 

Then there’s Dubai-based Rania and Zaina Kanaanfounders of successful bike business Chari Cycles 

The Palestinian-Canadian sisters turned their passion for cycling into a social enterprise that helps children living in refugee camps. 

Their common ground? The UAE. It’s the place to beCapital managed by women currently exceeds $3.2 billion, according to government data.  

The Emirates rank as a leading country in gender equality in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap. 

Additionally, sweeping economic reforms pushed the Emirates up 10 spots to 11th place in 2019 in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. 

Shama Al Daheri, director of the UAE’s General Authority of Islamic Affairs, recently told Gulf News:

In the early days, women bore great responsibility at home. The paradigm shift has made the UAE woman a cornerstone in the country’s development.

It wasn’t always so. Before oil was discovered in the 1950s, the UAE's economy was dependent on fishing and a declining pearl industry. 

But the UAE has since diversified and become a regional trading and tourism hub. And the role of women has grown sharply.  

The proportion of females in the UAE’s higher education sector exploded in the past 20 years, according to government data. Todaywomen comprise 70% of college graduates in the Gulf state.  

Six in 10 professional women enter the workforce to achieve financial independence, according market research firm YouGov. 

Though traditionally conservative, the UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf.  

Is there a downside? Politically it remains authoritarian. 

For now, let’s remember what IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in 2016: 

The UAE’s track record of empowering women by bringing them to the mainstream is a story to be told globally and an example to be followed around the world.

Related Links:

IMF chief: UAE stands out globally in empowering women 
Calling female entrepreneurs: Why the UAE ithe place tbe 
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