Doing Business as a Woman in the UAE

, Leadership

Being a female ‘entrepreneur’ can be tough in many parts of the world. As Alicia Keys was famously quoted in the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg “Create the world you want and fill it with the opportunities that matter to you. Do not let others limit your power.” This holds true for women in our generation, and for female entrepreneurs. To fully explore the potential both as a woman and as a woman entrepreneur, one needs to work hard. However, you will be surprised to know that in Dubai, such prejudices don’t work against the woman entrepreneurs.

Negotiating business is not tough for a woman in Dubai and the Middle Eastern countries.  In this article, we will examine the challenges and advantages for women doing business in UAE/Dubai.

The Strategic Advantages…

The UAE/GCC market is buzzing and getting a start in that country is paramount for commercial success. Getting a foothold in that economy is good for any kind of business. Business in the UAE region is driven by the petrodollar pushed by the oil reserves that UAE is blessed with. The economy heavily export-import oriented as the OPEC countries export oil and import pretty much everything else. This means there is huge scope for doing different kinds of businesses.

Arabs being a traditional trading economy, the Arabs are pretty good at their trade and are ‘more than’ hospitable for encouraging business. The lifestyle in the region is very good and affords a better living standard or comparable living standard for most people thinking of doing a business in the UAE. The rules for setting up business in Dubai/Middle East is people and investor friendly, and there is not much red-tape.

The Apparent Challenges…

Following the cultural norms and mores ‘is’ often seen as a challenge for outsiders wanting to do business in the region. This is not true at all. Yes, cultural mores and norms are a challenge yes, and since business is always conducted ‘locally’ hence, it is a challenge anywhere and everywhere, and not really tied down to this region. Once, you are aware of the cultural norms and familiarize yourself with the codes of conduct then being a woman doing business in UAE is not a handicap.

Payment terms are sometimes a challenge. The Arabs being a trading class are very good at haggling and have a bad reputation as ‘non-payers’ or bad payers. There is an easy way to tackle this. Never leave the country till you have the ‘cash’ in hand; another option is to mark up the product you are planning to sell; that way, even after giving a discount, you can still make a handsome profit. Asking for discounts is always a norm there.

Nada Kakabadse, Professor of Policy, Governance and Ethics at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School in the UK, has witnessed her fair share of how women can either excel, or face near insurmountable hurdles in the global workplace.

Their findings clearly showed that many women in Dubai are progressing rapidly away from stereotypes regarding skills, choices and identities. Instead, they are fast establishing themselves as significant agents of change.

One interviewee commented as part of the study, ““My upbringing was important in that I went to an international school. Where else could you find the Emirati in a mixed-gender setting? I was brought up in such a way where my father’s friends could come in and we were there. It wasn’t a man only zone and I think this exposure to other cultures and ideas helped me.”

As we can see, gender is not a hindrance for doing business in the UAE. Business is encouraged in the Middle East and GCC/UAE is a market that you can’t afford to ignore. So, if you are a woman on the lookout for a global window, come to Dubai for more opportunities.

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