“You, as a woman, are capable of being an entrepreneur and starting your own business.”
That is something you would probably almost never hear said in Libya and in most Middle Eastern countries, due to a mix of factors including but obviously not limited to social, cultural, religious and historical reasons.
Despite this domestic wide-spread consensus that women aren’t fit for starting their own firms, entrepreneurship has become a phenomenon that reshaped the world economy; and Libya has been touched by globalization which has encouraged the growth of privately owned women-businesses.
This is a move towards the right direction.
Because Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), (defined as having less than 250/500 employees) represent 99% of all businesses worldwide. Whether in Egypt, Canada, Japan or most emerging/developed economies you may think of, SME percentage is above 97%, as opposed to large corporations that employ fewer people than SMEs in total. Not only are they great contributors to the domestic economy due to their growth, SMEs also create 80% of new jobs.
What about the role of women in this thriving sector ?
Well, statistics by the Center for Women’s Business Research in the U.S found that the economic impact of women-owned business is 3 trillion dollars, 23 million jobs. That’s about 16% of total employment. If these U.S women were to create a state of their own, they would be the world’s 5th richest economy, toppling countries like France, UK and Italy, or Canada-India-Vietnam combined.
We can argue that women starting their own business in Libya is actually a heroic and brave act. Not only are they very moderately encouraged, considering the state of the Libyan economy and the downward trajectory in liquidity, a large percentage of the community, especially males, rely on public sector salaries that generally promote low productivity. Some may even opt to forge signatures to prove their attendance or even benefit from several public salaries at once.
To prove the statement made in the opening of this article, let us list a few reasons and facts on why women-owned businesses may actually, whether we like it or not, have an edge on men-owned businesses:
Women know how to do business.
They do it on a daily basis, and even have previous experience debating prices with retailers. This is proven by the fact the women-owned business sector is NOT a niche market. Although studies on this topic are hard to find, the Global entrepreneurship Monitor did a study on 67 countries to find that 224 million women are today starting/running a business. 126 among these had freshly started whereas over 90 million already were in business for over 3 years. These statistics only represent a small percentage of countries compared to those that trade worldwide.
Women spend, whether in Libya or abroad.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. In emerging markets, as opposed to men who usually invest/spend 30/40% of what they make back into the economy and save the rest, women reinvest 90% of what they make. This increases a country’s income and assets, thus benefitting the community and the country’s wellbeing.
Women employ other people
Unemployment is a staggering problem in Libya, with youth struggling to find jobs due to the scarce situation and demand. In the U.S, woman-owned SMEs will create more than 5 million jobs in 2018, which is more than half of what the U.S sector SMES will create.
Women are innovative
In their approach to serving customers and coming up with new ideas, women entrepreneurs actually have broader creativity.
Women aspire to success and are driven
A study on venture companies (those that invest in local markets or abroad) found that successful ones actually had twice as many women as founders.
Women inspire trust
Due to their trusted status in the community, whether in Libya or abroad, research has shown that women owned firms actually perform better than those of males.
So with all these qualities, why aren’t women entrepreneurs taking over the Libyan market with their successful firms?
For the same reasons most MNEs ( Multinational enterprises) don’t take off. If this article pointed out something, it certainly wasn’t the lack of woman potential and capabilities, but rather the knowledge and know-how on how to drive a business’ growth from phase 1 to phase 2.
This knowledge isn’t necessarily lacking amongst women specifically, however they need to provide double men’s efforts in terms of adapting from assuming the role of having “technical know-how” to endorsing the role of “business leader” while sometimes being criticized and facing society related obstacles.
Fortunately, entrepreneurship has recently started to be recognized by women in Libya as a driver for personal growth, development and overall domestic prosperity to the Libyan citizen in the transitional phase we are in.
Surely, with efficient support, Libyan women can play a huge role in promoting peace and be a factor of financial stability for the Libyan territory through entrepreneurial leadership.
In hopes that in light of this new information (to some!), women will be encouraged to believe in themselves and pursue business ownership!
Written by @iron_badi: Libyan born, French educated. Student at Essex University (BBA) and TU (French Language). Full-time Dale Carnegie Sales Manager and Trainer. Can be found pursuing his power-lifting career when not working, writing or wearing the activist hat.