Breaking the mould: Female entrepreneurs

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Female entrepreneurs in the MENA region have shed the cloak of invisibility and embraced networking as an important tool for growing their businesses.

A growing number of networking groups have launched across the UAE, Gulf and wider Middle East, bringing together some of the most talented, ambitious, and business savvy businesswomen in the area, helping them to broaden their circles of experience, influence and interaction, and boosting female entrepreneurship as a whole.

On top of this, women have also been setting up more and more technology companies, entering what has previously been viewed as a male-dominated sector.

Combining this burst of activity in technology, and networking, Global Thinkers Forum (GTF), Google MENA and Oasis500 recently teamed up to, for the first time, focus on aspiring female tech entrepreneurs and help them break out of some of the remaining stereotypes.

Google MENA’s office in Dubai Internet City was almost bursting at the seams earlier this year as it played host to entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and media representatives eager to support eight young women who pitched their business proposals to a selected crowd of investors.

StartUp was also there to watch their five-minute presentations, listen to the investors’ questions and feedback, and take the opportunity to craft a more detailed picture of today’s Arabic female entrepreneur.

Since moving to the Gulf in 2006, Elizabeth Filippouli, founder and CEO of GTF, has embarked on a journey to explore, understand and break some of the stereotypes about Arab women in the West.

She says: “The stereotypes are that women in the Arab world are restricted in many ways. I used to attend many similar events, which didn’t target women in particular, but interestingly the majority of CEOs, who were pitching their ideas, were women. So my experience from living in the Gulf is that women are very much empowered.”

With a group of forward-thinkers and change-makers, she launched GTF in 2012 in Jordan with a commitment to actively help young or aspiring entrepreneurs realise their dream by providing them with knowledge on how to transform their idea from a vague concept to a real venture.

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