Gender Barriers in Tech in the MENA Region

On the 14th of December 2020, the founder of the Womenpreneur-initiative, Sana Afouaiz, was interviewed by Lucia Conti for the magazine Maize. To find the full interview, click here.

The focus of the conversation was on tackling gender barriers in the tech world within the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. On this occasion, our founder discussed gender discrimination specific to MENA communities, which holds women back in the entrepreneurial field. She also highlighted the importance of women developing modern tech skills to effectively increase their access to opportunities and participation in increasingly competitive job markets. 


Gender Gaps in Entrepreneurship and Tech in the MENA Region


Oftentimes MENA communities are perceived to be culturally and politically homogeneous. However, the lived realities of women in entrepreneurship and tech fields vary greatly across MENA countries, as Sana has pointed out in the interview. Although, it is true that a lack of female participation in formal MENA economies has been recorded over history. Multiple factors contribute to this gap, among which are women’s limited access to finance and microfinance initiatives, social capital, and career-related opportunities. On top of that, female entrepreneurs have to work against widespread gender bias, and in an entrepreneurial ecosystem lacking in innovative frameworks conducive towards long-term success. Ultimately, Sana describes an atmosphere where women are not encouraged to establish businesses, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sectors. 

Womenpreneur-Initiative’s Mission: 


Womenpreneur has launched several initiatives and projects effectively addressing the digital gender gap, boosting women’s participation and engagement in STEM fields, which has been of increasing importance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 


One of our projects is Womenpreneur Tours. In 2019, we launched our very first Womenpreneur Tour. Throughout our journey, we mapped out a growing network of digital female talent and leading female entrepreneurs in Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The campaign facilitates quality investment in women and girls, in the form of promoting financial and social capital, access to resources, mentorship programmes and gender advocacy campaigns. 


Drawing from this, we have published a policy paper, which provides recommendations on how to effectively promote gender equality in economic and STEM spheres. Our analysts propose concrete solutions at the technical, political, cultural, financial, legal and knowledge level e.g. organising STEM events, participatory policy-making, creating virtual networks for female talent, gender training sessions, and so on.

After the tour, Womenpreneur-Initiative launched a survey in 2020 to analyse the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on female-led businesses in the MENA region. The results will be published in a policy paper and used to develop tailored programs to help fulfil the professional needs of female entrepreneurs within the region. Tours are expected to resume once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

The survey is still open! If you are a female MENA-based entrepreneur, click here to partake in it. 


Another project focusing on counteracting the effects of COVID-19 on female economic participation is Generation W. It is the first accelerator program in Brussels supporting women throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. If you wish to learn more about it or get involved, you are welcome to visit the webpage of the program and its blog.


Interested? Join Us and Our Initiatives in the MENA Region


Our latest project was the successful launch of our Womenpreneur Digital Hub. The hub is the first virtual space whereby MENA-based women can learn, connect and grow. We aim to ensure that every woman and girl in the MENA region can access the tools and develop the skills required to realise their fullest economic potential. The hub gives users free access to a diverse community of experts, mentors and peers to share tips and collaborate, as well as various opportunities. For example: job vacancies, scholarships, online courses, competitions, workshops, and so on.


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