Key role of women entrepreneurs, investors in driving economic growth
Women investors have a role to play in steering economic sustainability by supporting female entrepreneurs, according to Ghada Abdelkader, Senior VP at Crescent Enterprises, a leading global, diversified business headquartered in the United Arab Emirates.
Representing Crescent Enterprises’ corporate venture capital platform, CE-Ventures at the 6th Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, Ghada Abdelkader said progress is being made to address the gender disparity in the investment sector with more focus needed, “Globally, Venture Capital (VC) firms are focusing on improving their Diversity and Inclusion practices as more firms clearly understand the business case. However, the pace of change is still slow”.
“It is generally more challenging to make substantial changes when the change requires a complete revamp of the mindset and strategies that have been followed for years. For example, we frequently evaluate global funds that boast an integrated gender diversity strategy. Yet, when we look at the teams, we find that, predominantly, decision-makers tend to be male,” Abdelkader added.
The discussion highlighted the unique opportunities both female entrepreneurs and investors pose for economic sustainability. However, female entrepreneurs are still underfunded, with only 2% of funding distributed to females in the US and 1% in the Middle East and North Africa region. Similarly, the representation of female investors in the US is also low, with 8-10% of GPs female, and only 2% of which are founding females, a figure even lower in the MENA region.
However, it’s not about suddenly investing in all women-led businesses. Instead, it’s more about removing the unconscious bias from the investment decision-making process, which the MENA region has better embraced due to the relative emergent nature of the ecosystem. “I’m more optimistic for the MENA region landscape due to the relatively nascent VC ecosystem and the fact that women investors were a vital part of this ecosystem when it started. While the gender lens investing VCs are making strides in advancing the gender equity agenda, I believe it’s on the non-GLI investors to build a more conducive and welcoming environment for women-led startups and founders,” Ghada said.
She also emphasised that investments are evaluated on the merits of the opportunity and the challenges they address, but that profit, and purpose can co-exist.
“At CE-Ventures, we look to invest across sectors, with tech-enabled solutions being a core concentration. Over the past 5 years, we have invested in the areas of foodtech, fintech, and edutech as examples. Our investment philosophy is one that focuses on companies that are solving real problems, scaling globally, and that are using technology as a competitive advantage in solving the given problem.”
Ghada Abdelkader made her comments during the session ‘Female Investors and their Impact on the Industry’ and was joined by other speakers, including Sheikha Al Mheiri, Chairwoman, Fortitude Holding and Olga Fleming, Investor and Serial Entrepreneur, and moderated by Heather Henyon, Founding Partner, Mindshift Capital.
The panel was part of Sheraa’s 6th Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival 2022 under the theme ‘Where we Belong’, which took place at Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park under the patronage of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa). As a founding partner and supporter of Sheraa, Crescent Enterprises is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and developing an environment for innovation to thrive. During the festival, CE-Creates’ joint venture, hatch & boost Ventures showcased its latest portfolio businesses; World of Farming, a homegrown AgriTech company that creates smart farming solutions to aid and support food security challenges; and BreakBread, a digital platform aimed at connecting food enthusiasts, hosts, and talented cooks through home-cooked meals.
Meanwhile, recently stalwarts from the world of business came together on the Tech Stage at the 6th Sharjah Entrepreneurial Festival (SEF) 2022 to share their invaluable know-how and personal experiences with a fully-packed audience, eager to upskill their entrepreneurial abilities.
“In any economy across the globe, SMEs contribute to almost 90% of the GDP. Why? Because 60% of the workforce comes from these Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). Imagine how huge is the impact of that on the economy and for employment. This is why we believe that SME is the critical sector of any economy,” Shaker Zainal, Emirates Development Bank mSME Officer said at the annual extravaganza.