By SARAH ABDULLAH | ARAB NEWS
Published: Jul 28, 2010 23:39 Updated: Jul 30, 2010 17:43
JEDDAH: According to a report released on Tuesday, Jeddah is the most business-friendly city in the Kingdom for women entrepreneurs.
The report, entitled “Businesswomen in Saudi Arabia: Characteristics, Challenges and Aspirations in a Regional Context,” was prepared by Al-Sayeda Khadijah bint Khuwailad Businesswomen Center at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) after a nationwide survey.
It said 58 percent of female business owners have university degrees and three out of 10 of these diplomas are from universities abroad. The average female Saudi business owner is married and between the age of 25 and 44. Over half of them have more than three children. On average, she has at least 11 years of business experience and puts in at least 40 hours a week at her business.
Despite facing many social challenges as much as 94.7 percent of Saudi businesswomen are either somewhat or very optimistic about the future of their ventures, the report said.
The report showed that some Saudi cities were more business-friendly to women than others with more than half of women in Jeddah saying that they registered their businesses themselves compared with one-third in Riyadh and one-fifth in the Eastern Province.
The report was compiled in partnership with Monitor Group, a global advisory firm, after surveying over 300 businesswomen in Jeddah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province. The report also includes interviews with businesswomen from Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE.
“The report was prepared primarily to identify obstacles and find solid solutions for them, and secondly to put forth facts about Saudi businesswomen,” said Basma Al-Omair, executive director of Al-Sayeda Khadijah bint Khuwailad Businesswomen Center. “I believe these are the necessary seeds of the next step forward.”
Al-Omair said a large amount of attention is usually paid to Saudi businesswomen but there are no statistics to give clear facts. “Most of the known information is opinion and not based on facts.
The report showed that Saudi registered female-owned businesses are the largest in the surveyed MENA countries with 72.6 percent operating outside the home and 92 percent of them with paid employees. The only drawback for Saudi businesswomen was that they were found to be less likely than Bahrain or UAE to work in international trade, with only 21.3 percent of them in import and export jobs.
The good news is that Saudi women are more likely than their MENA counterparts to be sole owners of their businesses but do not spend as much time as their regional peers in hands-on daily management of the company.
The three major challenges affecting women and confining their business growth are gender-specific obstacles in the regulating environment, limited access to formal capital and financing mechanisms and the need for increased integration in marketing and technological tools.
Other obstacles included the fact that they are still required to appoint male managers despite having the businesses listed in their names, the lack of relevant business licenses, restrictions on mobility, restrictions on international travel and limited options for training abroad.
The report included eight recommendations to policymakers that could remedy the obstacles a majority of Saudi female entrepreneurs face.
When asked by Arab News if she expects local authorities to respond to any of the recommendations, Al-Omair said she expects the recommendations to be examined.
“I expect that the recommendations will be looked at by the authorities in great detail because in the future change is inevitable,” she said.