Knowledge@Wharton has a great piece highlighting the strides that women entrepreneurs are making in the Arab world. And this success is despite cultural challenges such as it not being culturally acceptable for men and women to sit together in social gatherings. Women are then forced to be resourceful, finding workarounds, such as scheduling appointments with her male counterparts in the industry during working hours.
Allam tells the story of a woman she recently met who attended an international business course. The woman wears a nikab - a full-face cover - and manufactures goods at home. "She has hired many women and has a fantastic export business." While this way of doing business may not be what Europeans or Americans perceive to be totally free, says Allam, it is still possible to do business in this way.
Wharton points to a regional microfinance company targeting low-income and rural women; they would like to provide one million loans by the end of next year. In total there are 100 institutions providing microfinancing that reach 3.5 million borrowers; the loan portfolio is $1.3 billion. Demand, however, is such that an estimated at $4 billion is needed.