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Finding opportunity in adversity – women entrepreneurship through the pandemic

Contributing Author: Deeksha Gandotra | Managing Director, Versatile Consultancy DMCC | IPTER Dubai, UAE

Advancing the role of women in society and the economy is a key driver of change in the middle east and the world, women worldwide especially working women have been more negatively impacted by the covid pandemic than men, but out of adversity also stems opportunity and this global event has proven to be a facilitator of positive change for many.

Many people believe incorrectly that starting up as a female in the Middle East is particularly difficult, that you will be at a disadvantage but a quick google search will show you that many of the most promising startups in the region are led by women and many talented women sit on the boards of and run multi-million dollar companies.

Let’s be clear though starting any business regardless of your gender and location is a tremendously difficult feat. Luckily there are multiple initiatives by governments and corporate businesses to support entrepreneurs with access to funds and technical support. It is the ideal meeting of minds. Smaller businesses are traditionally where we look for job creation and bold ideas, but larger businesses have been around long enough to have better understandings of issues such as market strategy, best practice, and compliance. Collaboration and healthy competition are the magic mix to success.

A key tenet of entrepreneurship is dealing with uncertainty on a daily basis, uncertainty that stems from market conditions, lack of funding, lack of acceptance and this is further amplified by self-doubt, it is no different for women entrepreneurs. In fact, women have to contend with additional challenges such a being taken seriously, societal norms and building a support network. But the outlook is not completely bleak with many countries boasting about their successful women entrepreneurs who have reached the heights of success.

The pandemic provided us with a blank canvas for fresh thinking and new ways of doing business. Somethings we can do to stay ahead of the curve:

1) Digital! Digital! Digital!- Post the pandemic businesses realized the urgency of digital transformation and forced entrepreneurs to accelerate. Evaluate where you stand in the digital ecosystem and make changes where necessary.

2) Rethinking traditional business spaces– the global crisis has made us realize that you can do work whilst sitting in any remote corner of the world. Its time to adapt to hybrid models of working and transform your operations.

3) Building Financial resilience- many businesses had to shut because of working capital deficit therefore, it is very important to have contingency funds to curb any unforeseen circumstances.

4) Not all eggs in one basket– evaluate what other streams of income you can generate by diversifying your business or expanding into new markets

5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help- You might be the best in what you do but we all do need a mentor, a guide at some point. Don’t shy to reach out to collaborate with peers, getting a mentor or just reaching out to a senior in your trade to understand where you are and reposition yourself.

It is imperative that women understand no industry, role or sector is out of bounds for them to succeed in and disrupt and as a society it is our collective responsibility to encourage the next generation to not only dream big but to empower them to succeed.

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