We are writing to invite you to take part in a unique and exciting project. In collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s renowned Wharton School of Business, we are working on a series of articles and a book on female entrepreneurship in the MENA region. This project offers you—relevant female entrepreneurs—the opportunity to share your experiences through two different outlets: (1) a series of articles that will be published in Wharton’s online journal, Knowledge @ Wharton (KW); and (2) a book that will result from a compilation of stories featured at KW.
There are many perceptions about women in the MENA region being powerless, but accomplished women like you disprove the myths. Part of being a female entrepreneur in the MENA region, however, entails navigating the socio-politics of the region, which often make it more difficult for female entrepreneurs to start and/or run businesses—but which, in some cases, can also help facilitate entrepreneurship. This project will explore various aspects of female entrepreneurship in MENA. For example:
- What sort of social and legal factors affect female entrepreneurship? (class barriers, administrative hurdles, entrenched gender biases, etc.)
- What opportunities are available and what challenges do women face when trying to start and/or run a business in MENA? (education, public and private funding, mentoring, etc.)
- How has the shifting social and political landscape in MENA, that is, the Arab Spring, affected your business and the potential for future female entrepreneurship?
- How does Islamic law or religion generally facilitate or hamper female entrepreneurship? (succession, gender segregation, etc.)
While we have broad interests in studying the region and we do not want to limit interviews in any way, there are specific issues in particular countries which we would be interested in exploring:
- Tunisia/Egypt: Do you believe that your work as an entrepreneur has the potential to either directly or indirectly affect the social and political rebuilding of your country? If so how? For example, do your entrepreneurial skills contribute to your ability to make a political impact? Are you engaged in post-revolution politics or activism? Does your work help to maintain the sort of female participation and visibility that was apparent in Tahrir Square?
- Gulf Cooperation Council States (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman): Many of the GCC states are very wealthy and the realities of females succeeding into corporate leadership positions and of women inheriting large amounts of wealth have the potential to fundamentally change the economic landscape of countries like Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. What sorts of changes do you expect to see in the next several years? Will women take more leadership in business? Is there room for female innovation in these markets? What religio-cultural barriers will these women have to overcome?
- Morocco: In 2004, the Moroccan government enacted a series of sweeping changes to the country’s family code which significantly enhanced the rights of women in marriage, divorce, and family matters. Since then, Morocco has been hailed as a model for female progress in the Muslim world. What do the recent advances in women’s rights mean for Moroccan businesswomen?
- Palestine/Israel: Do you believe that business relations have the ability to reduce Arab-Israeli political tensions? Do you believe your role as an entrepreneur entails any socio-political gravity or responsibility?
What we need from you:
The story we tell about female entrepreneurship in MENA depends primarily on the stories you share with us. To that end, we are looking to conduct a one-hour interview with you or your program participants over phone or Skype.
Although interviews can be scheduled anytime between now and the end of August, we are looking to conduct the majority of our interviews during July. The goal is to move as quickly as possible, writing and publishing feature interviews and articles at Knowledge @ Wharton throughout the summer. If you are interested in taking part in this exciting project, we ask that you get in touch with us as soon as possible so that we may be able to schedule a date and time for your interview. We can be reached at the email addresses provided below.
We look forward to hearing from you soon!