Session organised by Sharjah Business Women Council
September 28, 2022 (Sharjah, UAE): The Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement, has organised a panel discussion themed ‘Stating Challenges Faced by Women-Owned Media Companies’ on the opening day of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) 2022. The session was held at ‘Inspirational Eve’ Hall and moderated by Jessy El Murr. The ‘SBWCTalks’ panel was hosted by Iman Ben Chaibah, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sail Publishing, as well as Sharifah Alhinai, Founder of Sekka Digital Magazine.
After welcoming the participants and introducing the inspirational speakers, El Murr stated that women entrepreneurs’ contributed to 37% of the global GDP, and 29% of women-owned businesses broke into the global market and succeeded in building international brands. She remarked that investments in companies across the Middle East last month were valued at USD 374 million, and that she was shocked to learn that the share of women-owned businesses was only USD 3,700,000, or 1% of the total sum of investments, emphasising that those numbers show funding imbalance and bias against women-owned companies.
Iman Ben Chaibah gave insight into some of the key challenges that faced her when she launched her venture and pointed out that women have not had access to learn about certain business networks and procedures. She noted that the support structures of today were not available when she launched her business, and the type of business she started, which was an e-magazine and online platform, was unchartered territory at the time. She added: “It was hard to get the licence, and the administrative formalities were complex and took forever, approvals from media entities and committees took so much time”, pointing out that she finally got the licence after four months.
The session continued with Sharifah Alhinai adding her accounts on the challenges that she has been overcoming most notably helping to raise awareness about the importance of her e-magazine and platform which has been playing a pivotal role in meaningful cross-cultural communication between people and has made a positive impact on the cultural landscape as a whole.
On funding challenges, Ben Chaibah noted that she preferred self-funding because some investors have the wrong ideas and that will hinder the business’s progress and growth. She said that it was hard to attract advertisers, because they seem to prefer art, acting, fashion and entertainment rather than cultural platforms, and that was why she sought to offer services and projects that were traditionally tendered to men-owned businesses.
Ben Chaibah stressed that publishing houses depended on local and international grants and big projects, but the grants were miniscule, biassed towards men-owned businesses and did not contribute to real progress and development. She stated that she once got an AED 7000 grant, while another man-owned business recieved a grant of AED 700,000, in other words she recieved 1% of what he did, and on top of that it was revealed that he received 11% of the overall grant that was distributed to more than 300 publishers.
Sharifah Alhinai continued to note that she personally felt bias against women through the unjust acquisition attempts to takeover her company and the trivial deals that were offered to her, but she did not assert that the only reason was because she was a women, and that there could be other reasons, but the proposed offers were not fair and did not even cover the venture’s capital.
On the challenges of networking and building close professional relations with directors and chairpersons, be they men or women, Ben Chaibah pointed out that it was important to make the most of all occasions and events, by maximising your timeto discuss business, network, and build fruitful relations, because men are far more experienced than women in this field. She underscored that women need professional and vocational training on networking skills.
Sharifah Alhinai concluded with the valuable addition that women should never be afraid of being under the spotlight, and of being present on social media platforms if it helped them to make a real difference in the development of their businesses.