Women in the Arab Entrepreneurial Spring

In the October edition of the Council on Foreign Relation’s “Women and Foreign Policy Update”, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes of the Middle East’s “Start-Up Spring”. The article details the growth of youth entrepreneurship in the region, which at 28.3% has the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world. It is important to be mindful that the piece is written from a US foreign policy perspective, and hence readers from the region may bristle at the assertion of “what few imagine”, and the lumping of varied economies into a homogenous entity. Ideally, it would benefit from including opinions from individuals active within the region to highlight how they view both their successes and future needs in growing their businesses. That aside, the piece offers an exciting picture of the entrepreneurial spirit and technology use that is allowing for the growth of micro to medium size businesses. Most pertinent within this picture is the role of women in what Lemmon terms “a revolution”. She writes: As was the case with the Arab Spring, women are a driving force in this revolution. Internet-based start-ups have given women a portal into the often male-dominated field of entrepreneurship. Arab female entrepreneurs are excelling and even surpassing their counterparts in other regions, making up about 35 percent of the region’s start-up labor force — more than three times the global average. Internet and technology start-ups, which can be launched and run from home or from all-female offices, are helping women tackle social, economic, and political barriers that often limit their employment opportunities and ability to contribute to local and regional economies. In addition to...