Female entrepreneurs face significant challenges in Jordan

By Mohammed Ghazal in Amman

Endeavor Jordan held on November 18th a roundtable discussion on the challenges facing female entrepreneurs in Jordan. [Photo courtesy of Endeavor Jordan]

Endeavor Jordan held on November 18th a roundtable discussion on the challenges facing female entrepreneurs in Jordan. [Photo courtesy of Endeavor Jordan]

Significant challenges stand in the way of increasing women's participation in the business sector in Jordan, a new report said, as female entrepreneurs lack the social capital and access to funding that are key to starting a business.

The report, issued by Endeavor Jordan, said challenges specific to female entrepreneurs continue to limit their involvement in the entrepreneurial economy, even though the number of females in Jordan in 2017 reached 4.7 million, or 47.1% of the population.

"While the processes and policies of business incubators, accelerators and support programmes are unbiased, only one fourth of incubated entrepreneurs are females," the report said.

The report's findings were presented at a November 18th roundtable discussion held by Endeavor Jordan, which supports the growth of high-impact entrepreneurs, and World of Letters, a Amman-based company that provides innovation and creativity to educational systems in the Arab world.

Female entrepreneurs in Jordan face five major challenges when starting or expanding a business and attempting to turn a profit, the report said.

These include the reluctance and unwillingness of investors to invest in women-led startups.

Female entrepreneurs find themselves having to challenge investor expectations regarding their ability to balance their roles as wives, mothers and business owners at the same time, the report said.

The second challenge lies in the difficulty of accessing funding, which is primarily caused by a lack of knowledge or access to wealth, and the limited guarantees women possess.

The third challenge is the conflict between social values and career choices, as the research shows that social values do not encourage entrepreneurship as a career choice -- especially for women.

The fourth challenge relates to self-confidence and self-sufficiency, or lack thereof, and the fear of failure, while the fifth lies in legal liability.

Demands for more representation

The challenges women entrepreneurs face are similar to the challenges everyone faces in Jordan, said Reem al-Baghdadi, founding partner of a recyclable packaging materials factory in Amman.

These include the high cost of products and challenges related to energy, production, unqualified or unskilled labor and unreliable legislation, she said.

"One of the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs face is the small number of female [representatives] in the industrial sector, which undermines the process of networking and building relationships and partnerships," she told Al-Mashareq.

There is a lack of representation for businesswomen in industrial chambers, for example, which negatively impacts the presence of women in industrial forums and events, she added.

"We need to increase women representation in industrial chambers, decision-making circles and boards of directors," al-Baghdadi said, stressing that this would "empower women and strengthen them".

'I want to have my own business'

Um Husam, a mother of five who asked not to use her full name, said the biggest obstacle she encountered when she wanted to open her own beauty salon was the difficulty of securing a bank loan.

"I have a certificate of experience in cosmetics and I tried to get a loan to open a salon to no avail, as I did not have a bank account or a salary," she told Al-Mashareq.

"I had to convert a room in my house into a small salon where I receive customers from the local community so I could pay the rent and support my children," she said.

"Society in general does no support women," said Um Husam. "I did not get any support to start my business and realise my dream."

"Everyone advised me to look for salaried work but I want to have my own business because I have children to take care of," she said.

A loss to the economy

The participation of women in the Jordanian economy is low, and this translates to economic losses, economist Hossam Ayesh told Al-Mashareq.

"Not empowering women and not helping them start businesses deprives the economy of the skills of many women and squanders the opportunity to create additional jobs through these businesses," he said.

The participation of women in the economy in Jordan is about 21%, he said, "which is very low".

"The percentage of university graduates and the educated in Jordan is highest among females, so it does not make sense to waste this great economic opportunity," said Ayesh.

The barriers women are facing must be lifted in order to increase their participation in society and the economy, he said.

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