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Why the Middle East Is a Good Place For Women Tech Entrepreneurs 229

Posted by samzenpus
from the unexpected-sales-pitch dept.
pbahra writes "Conferences for start-ups and entrepreneurs often feature 'pitch contests,' slots in which aspiring entrepreneurs take to the stage to sell their ideas to the audience. Last month's ArabNet conference, held in the Lebanese capital, was no different. What was different, however, was the number of pitches from female entrepreneurs. The stereotype has it that women in the Middle East are subjugated, oppressed and barely let out of their houses. But if that is the case, how come 40% of the pitches were from women—a higher percentage than is typical in equivalent conferences held in Europe? Nor was this closer-to-equal representation of women unique to ArabNet--other conferences in the region boast similar ratios."
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Why the Middle East Is a Good Place For Women Tech Entrepreneurs

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  • Soooo.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by baldass_newbie (136609) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:39AM (#39656793) Homepage Journal

    How many of them still had their clitoris?

    • Re:Soooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jawnn (445279) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:23AM (#39658283)
      Troll? Seriously? Because the Middle East is such a hotbed of advances in the area of women's rights, I suppose.
      Yes, yes. It's not fair to paint the entire region with one brush, but to even remotely suggest that the region, in general, isn't still influenced heavily by ass-backwards, women hating, religious fucktards is to miss a stupendously obvious reality. I'd say the same about Tennessee, but I think women get a moderately better shake there.
      • Re:Soooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jessified (1150003) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:12PM (#39660321)

        I concur. The whole article seems to be trying to say that the Middle East isn't a sexist place.

        That's like saying saying racism didn't exist in the 50s because some subset of black men were allowed to become a doctors.

        "You see? X-bias doesn't exist because some token example contradicts the mountains of examples where the bias does apply."

        Honestly. Does anyone here watch Star Trek? (Of course you do.) Does this not remind you of the Ferengi, as mainly depicted in DS9? The only difference I can see is that the Ferengi prefer their women unclothed rather than fully covered.

        How about some examples from this article:
        Lets start with the picture of the business women covered up from head to toe. For every one woman that truthfully and freely prefers to be dressed like that, how many are coerced by a sexist society?

        More flexible work options, freelance, home-based work, low capital requirements; you can see why starting a company on a small scale is a much more viable thing for women to do than get a corporate job.

        Why is that?

        In Jordan, specifically, the main reason for women not entering the work force is the lack of a proper transit system. We don't have an affordable transit system that can take women from remote areas to the city.

        Is the lack of public transportation not an issue for men, too? Why do women suffer from a lack of public transportation but men do not?

        Home working also allows women to combine their traditional roles of homemaker and mother, with being an entrepreneur.

        There it is. Women belong in the kitchen. Also, I imagine it's less embarassing to have women doing business anonymously over the internet, because no one needs to know she's a woman.

        He said that some private-sector companies would consider employing women, but were put off by the cost and the lack of knowledge of how to hire them. "One of the problems is that they don't know where to go to find the right kind of talents."

        Apparently, hiring women costs more than hiring men, and it's apparently much harder to assess the abilities of women than it is for men. Did not know that.

        If you were to look at the law, even in a country that claims to be as liberal as Lebanon, technically if your husband wanted to prevent you from traveling, he can. Technically you cannot open a bank account as a married woman, your husband has to do it. However, in practice these laws are not enforced."

        Well, it's not a repressive country if they simply don't enforce oppressive laws...for now. And that's an example of the most liberal middle eastern countries!

        It would be ironic if a region that is castigated for its attitudes toward women actually turned out to be more welcoming of female entrepreneurs than those doing the castigating.

        Right. The entire article depicted a more welcoming environment than the western world.

        The fact that any women are succeeding despite living in repressive regimes speaks to their strength of will, not the supposed "progress" of those countries.

        • by AdamHaun (43173)

          Is the lack of public transportation not an issue for men, too? Why do women suffer from a lack of public transportation but men do not?

          I can think of a few reasons.

          1. They might have more obligations at home due to tradition and/or male dominance.

          2. In some countries (like Saudi Arabia), women aren't allowed to drive. This is not the case for the quote, which is from a Jordanian.

          3. Walking long distances alone is more dangerous if you're a woman, especially if it's dark. This is true even in Western countr

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Jessified (1150003)

            Thanks. The question was rhetorical. All three of those answers make my point for me.

            And let there be no doubt that western societies still suffer from sexism too, for example, as evidenced by the fact that it is more dangerous for women to walk around in the dark than for men, as well as the nature of the crimes women are more likely to face vs those face by men. Of course, between the two regions, we are talking orders of magnitude of difference.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by g8oz (144003)

      Thats primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa not the Arab world. It does happen in Egypt, but a recent campaign enlisted local Muslim clerics to preach against the practice and is evidently meeting with success.

      Don't you hate it when facts interfere with glib one-liners?

      • Re:Soooo.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:13PM (#39660341)

        Thats primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa not the Arab world.

        wrong [globalpost.com], wrong [rferl.org], wrong [guardian.co.uk].

        • by g8oz (144003)

          Interesting, I didn't know that.

          I think this an issue where progress can be made because it is a cultural practice and clerics have made it clear (when pushed) that it is not part of Islamic teachings.

          In the Egyptian campaign mothers said they had it done to their daughters because they felt that not having it would make them unmarriageable. Showing example of uncircumcised girls who were doing fine, gotten married, gone to school helped change a lot of minds.

          Public education is needed, and personally I thi

    • by Quila (201335)

      Female circumcision is an African tribal custom, not Middle Eastern. It is now associated with Islam since most of the area was conquered by Muslims,. Muslim rulers generally let the locals continue their customs, and a lot of conversion was a converted king who told his populace to convert, but didn't dare risk rebellion by abolishing popular customs such as this. Arguments still continue as to whether it's an acceptable practice under Islam.

  • by johnjones (14274) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:40AM (#39656805) Homepage Journal

    Women driving has been a controversial issue in Saudi Arabia since 1990 when 47 women got into 14 cars and drove on to a main street in Riyadh. They were stopped, suspended from work for two years and condemned for years in religious sermons and social circles....

    honestly

     

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      In the US it's repeated again and again that "driving is a privilege, not a right". Many men also are forbidden to drive by their ex-wives.
  • As Arab cities go... (Score:5, Informative)

    by HBI (604924) <kparadine&gmail,com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:40AM (#39656815) Homepage Journal

    Beirut isn't very Arab. It's close to 40% Christian.

    • Beirut isn't very Arab. It's close to 40% Christian.

      I think you mean isn't very Muslim, not Arab. The Christians in Beirut are still Arabs.

      • by Sun (104778)

        Still, Lebanon is not a very typical Arab country. It has a lot of ethnic groups, and at times, showed a very pluralistic approach to internal affairs (then again, the other times were spent in bloody citizen war between those very groups). Until the jury comes back with a decision on what Egypt is becoming, it is the only somewhat (see comment above) functioning Arab democracy.

        There are other Muslim democracies, such as Turkey, but they are not Arab. The only other contender for an Arab democracy is the Pa

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:04AM (#39657993)

      "Arab" is an ethnic group, not a religion. It's more than possible to be an "Arab Christian," (typical Copt), just as it is to be an "Hispanic Jew."

      • by HBI (604924)

        The Maronites aren't Arabs, amongst others. Go elsewhere in SWA, and you'll find Arab and Muslim are synonymous.

        • by Guppy06 (410832)

          you'll find Arab and Muslim are synonymous.

          And that's somehow different or more accurate than saying "you'll find Hispanic and Catholic are synonymous?"

    • by Beetle B. (516615)

      Beirut isn't very Arab. It's close to 40% Christian.

      Your statement is a textbook example of ignorance related to the Middle East. Arab's aren't Muslims. They're Arabs. Most of those Christians are Arabs.

      And to the person who commented that they're a mix of ethnicities: That's equally true about the Muslims in Beirut.

      • by HBI (604924)

        Textbook example of ignorance? My ass. I've been, you probably haven't. Most Arab states go the extra mile (or kilometer) to make sure that every native person is a Muslim. The confusion isn't 'random' or from 'bias', it's actively conspired at. Besides which, the inhabitants of Lebanon are NOT always Arabs.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Lebanon [wikipedia.org]

        Now stop being a fucking ignorant idiot, ok?

        • by Beetle B. (516615)

          Most Arab states go the extra mile (or kilometer) to make sure that every native person is a Muslim.

          We're talking about Lebanon, not most Arab states.

          Not sure what your point in providing the Wikipedia link is. It doesn't indicate that most Christians in Lebanon are non-Arabs. More importantly, it doesn't indicate that the % of non-Arab Christians differs significantly from the % of non-Arab Muslims in Lebanon.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:41AM (#39656829)

    The stereotype has it that women in the Middle East are subjugated, oppressed and barely let out of their houses.

    In Saudi Arabia, that's *not* just a stereotype. Not to say that Saudi Arabia is representative of the entire region. But let's not pretend that more pitches from women at some conference makes it okay for one of the largest countries of the region to still tell women they can't drive, vote, show their faces in public, or even leave their house without male escort.

    • by sycodon (149926) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:45AM (#39656899)

      Don't forget get being beating, raped and even murdered with the tacit approval of the society and the law.

    • Worse than using sa to characterize the region is doing so with Lebanon.

    • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @10:18AM (#39657351)

      A female VP from a major defense contractor was made to wait outside a contract signing not too long ago. A male subordinate sat at the event in her stead.

      And that's supposedly the way women can be treated by the business classes. I certainly would think twice before I subjected myself to such a culture. If you can be a successful entrepreneur, you would provably also succeed in a much more favorable culture.

      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        They better hope that oil lasts forever. Because that's about the only thing that makes anyone want to do business there now.

      • by Beetle B. (516615)

        And that's supposedly the way women can be treated by the business classes. I certainly would think twice before I subjected myself to such a culture. If you can be a successful entrepreneur, you would provably also succeed in a much more favorable culture.

        What you say is true, but a few decades ago women enterpreneurs often faced similar exclusion in the US in the business world. Thankfully, that didn't stop people from investing in the US. And thankfully, it won't stop them from doing so in the Middle East.

    • by Beetle B. (516615)

      In Saudi Arabia, that's *not* just a stereotype.

      It is the stereotype. Please educate yourself on the meaning of the word. Being a stereotype does not mean that it's a misconception.

      But let's not pretend that more pitches from women at some conference makes it okay for one of the largest countries of the region to still tell women they can't drive, vote, show their faces in public, or even leave their house without male escort.

      And let's not pretend that the article is suggesting that it's OK for women not to drive, vote, etc. Your comment is essentially the same as responding to any positive aspect of the US with "Yes, but let's not pretend it makes it OK for them to invade other countries."

      And oh, BTW, name one Arab country that bans women from showing their face in public (with citation). I happen

  • by sideslash (1865434) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:41AM (#39656835)
    Both may be true -- that this conference was friendly to women running startups, and also that women in many parts of the Middle East are drastically subjugated versus women in at last European and American countries. Who wrote this summary, anyway, and with what agenda?
    • at last => at least
    • by alexander_686 (957440) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:50AM (#39656961)

      I agree. To elaborate. From the article: “Home working also allows women to combine their traditional roles of homemaker and mother, with being an entrepreneur.”

      It’s not unusual for women to run business – but I find this sentence telling. There is a difference between starting a good solid small business and a start up.

      The first is basically about creating a job for yourself. It may be a restaurant, day care, or a small professional business (lawyer, hair stylist, whatever ) but it’s about creating a job for yourself that lets you manage your life /work balance.

      The second is about putting in long hours for months at a time to hit that grand slam.

      This is, of course, a continuum between the two. I am just surprised that the submitter and article is pitching it this way. Are these woman truly liberality if they are forced into the shallow end of the pool? Small, home businesses are great, but it’s the lower end of the entrepreneurial market.

    • Who wrote this summary, anyway, and with what agenda?

      Yeah, I second that. Took me a few minutes to figure out that this isn't a story about 'Middle Earth'.

      I hate that sort of thing early in the morning.

  • by Internal Modem (1281796) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:44AM (#39656873)
    TFA answers the question: "Home working also allows women to combine their traditional roles of homemaker and mother, with being an entrepreneur. " So they are able to fulfill their expected roles. Also, "...most of the female entrepreneurs at the conference were young and had spent time in Europe, the U.S. or Australia." Many of them have more permissive families.
    • by Dyinobal (1427207)
      Ya how the hell did this garbage make it onto slashdot, it's sexist and misleading.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Their parents probably wanted them to leave their home region to be educated in the West, where women are allowed to succeed and where there is not a culture of subjugation and oppression. That would potentially account for the higher percentage of women at the conference than elsewhere in the world.

  • Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:49AM (#39656945)

    I'll bet they'd be in an even better position if they were in countries/cultures where they didn't have to worry about being stoned to death and could drive themselves to meetings. But that's just me.

    • Re:Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @10:04AM (#39657147)

      You mean like lebanon where this meeting took place?
      Not all of the Middle East is Saudi Arabia. Yet, the US backs Saudi Arabia while they do these things and threatens to attack Iran who does not.

      • No, Lebanon is not your typical Arab or Persian country. Try holding that conference in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen , Iran, Kuwait, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Or pretty much any country that has an overwhelming Islamic majority. As posted before, Lebanon is nearly 40% Christian.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Even among the countries you list there are huge differences. Saudi Arabia is pretty much the worst in the in bunch you list, unless we are comparing Riyadh to a cave in the mountains of Pakistan or Afghanistan. The Iranians are among the best in that list, yet compared to the west still terrible. At least they allow women to drive.

          Turkey has an overwhelming Islamic majority and no such problems.

          Your generalizations are pretty much worthless and borderline racist. Like most such generalizations.

          • by gtall (79522)

            The only reason Turkey doesn't yet have those problems is because for generations it was run by secularists. The Islamic party currently running the joint has been slowing re-establishing Islamic control of society. I give them another 10 years before they too sink into the human rights abyss that is Islam.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by h4rr4r (612664)

              Islam is young, in another 1000 years it will be as tolerant as those Christians who call women sluts for wanting birth control. You probably won't live that long so you can continue your mindless hate against the "Other". Turkey wants to join the EU, so they cannot do what you are claiming will happen.

              Indonesia is also majority Islam, over 85%, and has had a female president, something many Western nations have never done.

            • by tinkerton (199273)

              Like Iran? If you read there are more female university students than males, ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5359672.stm [bbc.co.uk] ) I think they won't do too badly.

  • Middle Eastern men still rule the household, which means their women have no rights. So being a businesswoman is not incongruous with other aspects of their lives, such as not being able to drive, or vote, or attend school. I'm sure many women from the Middle East are excited about expressing their limited freedom through entrepreneurship.

    However, not enough people call Islamists on their bluff - it was never God's will to subjugate women, no matter what their ridiculous heretical Mohammed said or wrote. Sl

    • free to do whatever the hell they want, whenever they want, and however the way they please

      That's not freedom

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        No, but it's pretty close. I'd be interested in your definition of freedom though.

    • by Asic Eng (193332)

      "Heretical" - seriously? From their position your religion is just as much nonsense as theirs to you.

  • According to summary, 40% of applicants were women. What percent of the accepted submissions were women? That would be a far mare significant statistic!
  • Ouch... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Troyusrex (2446430) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @10:29AM (#39657489)
    The article stressed how the women in Saudi Arabia could "Work from home". It neglected to say that the almost have to since they aren't allowed in public without a male relative around.
  • Subjugated, oppressed and stuck in basement? Sounds like a true geek to me!

    I jest, but I think this is actually partly true.

    I know an insanely talented female programmer who grew up in the states but was moved to Saudi Arabia around age 13. What did she do all day? Sit on her computer. A couple thousand hours of C+ later and she's back in the US getting a CS degree, on her way to a prime spot at MIT Media Lab. Key point: locked in basement for long periods of time = good at programming. Refused offline poli

  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:32AM (#39658429) Homepage Journal

    Compiled for the UN by the Arab world's friendliest own Arab economists and technicians. The Arab world is at or near the bottom, for the entire world, in terms of literacy, education, technical proficiency, intellectual property creation, research and development, internet penetration, media penetration, social and media freedom, contract law, technical small business start ups and technology transfer. Below the levels of much of Africa and SE Asia. Culturally, the exclusion of women, minorities only speaks to part of it. It really has to do with a historical tradition of abandoning everything the West had to contribute since the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. If you want a Turkish -centric history of this read "What Went Wrong?" by Bernard Lewis.

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