Foreign Female Entrepreneurs in the Arab World: A Success Story

In Doha, most students are women, but 93 percent of management of Qatari companies are men. How were entrepreneurs Elsbeth Blekkenhorst and Danielle Duttenhofer able to build a business in this masculine world?

Downtown Doha is no longer just a place for working men, but there is still a masculine culture in the Qatari capital. In one of the world's tallest buildings, the workstations on the upper floors are almost invariably the domain of men. The agency Mercer estimates that only 7 percent of company management are women in Qatar.

Emancipation in Arabia

This image should obscure the coming years, because the Qatari government appointed 'working women' last year as a pillar in its five-year plan for the future. It thus follows the same ambitions as neighboring Bahrain. "Fortunately, because of the current imbalance at the top of the business, the business environment can only become better for Women in the Middle East, " said Danielle Duttenhofer since January with Elsbeth Blekkenhorst owner of Global Women Qatar.

Their agency recruits and selects Qatari and foreign women in Doha for large and small companies. Their larger goal is to help women throughout Arabia into management positions. "First, we want to grow in Qatar, then we want to expand to countries around." Their ambitions would also lead them to Saudi Arabia, where, according to figures from the IBR less than 1 percent of women have a top job.

A half year after its launch, twenty corporate customers are client of the female entrepreneurs; those companies are looking for qualified female personnel in industries such as finance, aviation, telecommunications and engineering. 

Blekkenhorst and Duttenhofer shape the vision of the Emir of Qatar, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and his wife HH Sheika Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned: the two are not only women, they are also entrepreneurs and they help women with their careers. "We are the only woman recruitment service in the city," said Blekkenhorst. 'professional' women ',' recruitment 'and' Qatar 'on Google, and we are at the top of the search results. "
8 Tips

How did the entrepreneurs their business as quickly managed to build? Blekkenhorst and Duttenhofer, who in the Netherlands built up a career as a specialist accountancy and tax law, share eight tips:

    1. Visit as many events as possible

"We are often found through Google," says Duttenhofer. "But by far the most work we get is from networks, networks and another network. Doha is in that respect similar to a village. Meanwhile we went to many fairs and networking opportunities, my husband gets tired that I keep saluting people on the street, "she laughs.

    2. Consider much paperwork

"It is not easy to build your own company to be established in Qatar. Moreover,  there is much paperwork involved," says Duttenhofer, who is lucky that she and Blekkenhorst have legal and accounting knowledge. "You must first find a reliable native from Qatar that needs to won 51% of the shares in your company. Think carefully about your choice, because there are also young twentysomething boys who offer themselves for this. You must also take into account many mutual contracts, shareholder agreements ".

    3. Expect no communication from the customer

Blekkenhorst: "We have had several times queries from companies who needed dedicated staff, but our subsequent work was vain. Without informing, they would find staff in the meantime by another agency. It  fits in the fast life in a corporate world as Doha. Everything had to be done yesterday. On the other hand, payments will not be made soon. Two months is not uncommon, but in the end they pay. Happy! "

    4. " To be a Business Woman can bring benefits

As almost always, men occupy top positions, you can also take that to your advantage. Blekkenhorst: "Whether we use our feminine charms? Yeah. There  are a few women entrepreneurs, so you will be noted even more so. Often we succeed immediately to schedule an exploratory conversation with the top manager."  Blekkenhorst: "It really helped me in Qatar that I had a manager position at PwC, and that Danielle has worked as a tax lawyer at IFS in Doha. Because of that, they take you seriously automatically. "

    5. Caution labels

Blekkenhorst: "Unfortunately, in the past a talented candidate of us was rejected because her legs and her soles showed during her interview. That is an insult in Qatar. It is really about showing respect to another. "

    6. Proper dress

Talked about respect: Qatar is provided an Islamic emirate and it is therefore advisable not to dress flashy. Take account of  the dress code. For women: wearing a short skirt is not wise. Also, wearing sleeveless dresses, shorts or translucent jerseys is also to be better avoided.

    7. Bureaucracy

Do not expect to step in a well-oiled machine where everything is settled. There is a lot to look after in starting your own business in Qatar, such as a reliable local sponsor, own capital and the necessary paperwork licenses. "To do this you need to be very assertive and not afraid and to start a chat with the local government employees to get everything together. It's" The Wild West "and that has also been charms. If you can withstand the necessary frustrations and blessings, then business in Qatar might be something for you."

    8. No drugs, smoking and alcohol

If will never be Sex & The City in Qatar. There are strict rules about drinking alcohol. Drunk driving is a serious offense, as well as the use of drugs. Qatar maintains a zero tolerance policy. Was that all? No, maybe important to mention is the fact that public smoking is banned and fined.

This article first appeared in Sprout, a Dutch entrepreneur magazine

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