International Women’s Day: Celebrating inspiring female entrepreneurs in the Middle East

10 min read
Nada ElSharkawy

From scientists to athletes, doctors, CEOs, and authors, females in the Middle East are combating challenges and stereotypes so they won’t define them anymore.

For International Women’s Day this year, we’re honoring the amazing and inspiring females who are making their own way. In the MENA region, there are many outstanding females who are inspirational in so many ways. In this article, we will shed a light on some female entrepreneurship-related facts and statistics. On top of that, we’ll share information on five inspirational female icons and entrepreneurs. Are you ready to explore?

She is successful

The shift towards a modern and tech-driven world has led more women in the region towards entrepreneurship. This aligns with the goals of International Women's Day and the push for gender equality. Women are choosing entrepreneurship for many reasons, such as ambition, autonomy, work-life balance, or flexibility.

A study has revealed that close to 33 percent of women-run enterprises in the UAE generate revenues higher than 0,000, as compared with 13 percent in the US.

According to the United Nations and the World Bank, the progress of female entrepreneurs across the region is on par with their counterparts in Western Europe and North America. Moreover, female entrepreneurs in the region have the experience needed. The average work experience in the UAE is six years, and eleven years in Lebanon.

According to the International Finance Corporation, the MENA has the highest number of women as sole owners, with 40% in Lebanon and 60% in Bahrain.

Despite these progress, females are still struggling with gender inequality due to cultural constraints, social and traditional norms. This makes it crucial to raise awareness of women's rights, human rights, and gender equality, especially on International Women's Day.

Related: Women in business: Overview of female entrepreneurship in the Middle East

To break the bias and promote women's empowerment, female-focused support networks have emerged in the region. Some of these include the Cherie Blaire Foundation, Womena, and Entreprenelle. These organizations invest in women-led businesses, mentor women entrepreneurs, and support local women to create a more gender-equal world. This aligns with the goal of International Women's Day and the need to close the gender gap in workplaces and support women's achievements.

Fighting for women's rights is everyone's job and should start at the top. To create a sustainable future and a more gender-equal world, we need to foster partnerships that facilitate a cultural shift toward supporting female innovation and entrepreneurial aspirations. This is especially crucial during the pandemic and climate change, where women have been disproportionately affected. On International Women's Day and beyond, let's rally for women's equality and create a sustainable tomorrow for all.

On international women's day: She is inspiring

international womens day female entrepreneurs

In the spirit of International Women's Day, we believe that every woman is inspiring. From the stay-at-home mother who dedicates her time and energy to her children, to the CEO who leads a multinational corporation. Take a closer look in your life and you’ll find amazing women making their own ways around you.

Gender equality, equal world, equal future, and women's rights are all highly regarded social causes to pursue. Sadly, while many governments and companies claim to try and tackle gender parity close to home, not a lot is done.

With that being said, here are five females that you should know about who are breaking the regional norms and staying ahead of the game, and inspiring the next generation for an actual equal future and gender equality.

On international women's day: She is an economist

According to Forbes Middle East, Lobna Helal is the second most powerful Arab Business Woman. Lobna Helal is navigating a male-dominated realm and cuts through gender parity, as and first ever woman appointed as Deputy Governor of Egypt’s Central Bank (CBE). Hilal also holds key positions such as the deputy chair of the Egyptian Banking Institute and recently joined Telecom Egypt’s board.

On international women's day: She is an entrepreneur and a beauty guru


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A post shared by HUDA BEAUTY (@hudabeauty)

Are you familiar with the brand ‘Huda Beauty’? Well, who isn’t? Huda Kattan is the founder of Huda Beauty and has made a name for herself in the cosmetics industry in the past few years. She is now not only the highest-paid influencer in the region but also a successful self-made entrepreneur who’s redefining Middle Eastern Beauty standards along with her sisters Mona and Alya and many consider them to be women of the world.

Her brand, Huda beauty was crowned the most hyped celebrity brand by the cosmetics business. Follow Huda's Instagram and make success your New year's theme.


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A post shared by HUDA KATTAN (@hudabeauty)

On international women's day: She is a CEO

Dr. Amina Al Rustamani was ranked 9th out of the 100 most powerful Arab women in the Middle East in 2015. She is the chief executive of Tecom Investments, a business park operator owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and is responsible for developing the Dubai Design District, an area for the creative, design-oriented minds and companies of Dubai.

On international women's day: She is an athlete

Raneem El Welily is the first Egyptian woman to rank number 1 in the world for any sport. She is a Squash champion and a star. In an interview with Scoop Empire when she was asked about the achievement that she’s most proud of she said: “Taking the title of the number one PSA World Ranking! Nicole David retained the title for nine years and winning it from her is the achievement I’m proud of the most.”

On international women's day: She is a scientist

Dr. Hayat Sindi is a leading biotechnologist and the first Saudi Arabian woman accepted at Cambridge University in the field of Biotechnology. She is also the first woman from the Gulf to obtain a PhD in biotechnology from Cambridge. She has invented the machine combining the effects of light and ultra-sound for use in biotechnology. Her scientific research has awarded her prizes and recognitions worldwide, and she now serves as a visiting scholar at Harvard University. Additionally, she promotes science and education for Saudi women and serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO.

On international women's day: she is a founder and an entrepreneur.

Two of the most renowned female entrepreneurs in the region happen to be GoDaddy customers. As GoDaddy's mission in the region has been to empower entrepreneurs to take their businesses online with small investments to showcase their innovation. We are proud to have been partners with fashion designer Yara Bin Shakar (who founded her own brand!) and Zeina Ladki of Fltrd.

Yara Bin Shakar

Yara studied fashion design when it was first introduced and was one of the first to graduate with a fashion design degree in the UAE.

As a child, Yara always wanted to be a fashion designer. She eventually decided to pursue her dream and start her own fashion label as a female entrepreneur. In our interview with her, she said that the most difficult things about being an entrepreneur are:

  1. You are not only responsible for your own income anymore. As a boss, you have your employees and their families to think about as well.
  2. When you are in fashion design, you do not stop. You have to keep creating, keep designing, and never stop innovating.

Zeina Ladki

As a fashion designer in the region, it is hard to make it because of international brands and their attractiveness. Local designers usually end up working for international brands to make a living. This is what fashion consultant, Zeina Ladki and her company Fltrd are trying to change.

Zeina worked for a consulting firm, but decided to quit her “9 to 5 guaranteed salary at the end of the month” of a job. She start her own consulting firm to empower local designers in the region. She explains:

I always believed in regional fashion designers and talents and thought they deserve a chance.

Support your dream with a strong online presence

In addition to these prominent female figures, we’ve interviewed several female entrepreneurs in the region who inspired us in different ways. You can check their success stories here and you can watch the video below:

Besides dedication, hard work, and ambition these females have one thing in common; a professional website and online presence to support their dream.

To all the females out there, it’s never too late to make your dream a reality, and Happy International Women’s Day.

At GoDaddy, we celebrate women every day not just on March 8th. We try and empower women and support their journey online by offering them the tools they need to build their businesses and grow online. Tool starting from domain names, to professional emails for professional looks as well as marketing tools and website building and e-store building tools.

International women’s day Frequently asked questions (FAQs):

Here are some answers to your frequently asked questions:

Why is International women's day celebrated?

International Women's Day (IWD) is an occasion to honor the contributions and accomplishments of women in society. It is used to raise awareness of gender injustice and to promote women's empowerment.

IWD's origins can be traced back to the early 1900s. This was when proponents of women's rights fought for voting and equal pay. The International Congress of Working Women presented the idea of an annual "International Women's Day" in 1910. The first International Women's Day was founded in 1911 when the concept received approval. In order to remind people of the ongoing fight for gender equality, IWD is currently celebrated on March 8 globally. On this day, women's rights activists demonstrate for gender equality. Women's accomplishments in all areas of life are also honored at public spaces and on social media.

Why do we celebrate women's day on March 8?

The history of International Women's Day explains why it is observed on March 8. A group of Russian ladies protested in the streets in 1917 over the scarcity of food and miserable living circumstances caused by the First World War. Women's rights were established as a result of this incident, which is now known as the "Women's Day Strike" in Russia.

After this incident, other nations started celebrating International Women's Day on different dates until 1975, when the United Nations formally recognized March 8 as International Women's Day. This day has been designated to celebrate the achievements that women have made in society and to raise awareness of the ongoing fight for gender equality.

Now, the 8th of March is a day designated to celebrate all women and their achievements. It is a day to try and get closer to ending the gender gap and celebrating women’s empowerment and the achievements of women all around the world.

A gender-equal world isn’t something we hear of on TV and in politicians' speeches, it should be something we all aspire to achieve. Gender inequality has been around for a long time and now is the time to change. On international women’s day, we have to rally for equal rights and equal pay in the hope that one day we get to a “gender parity” society.