Highlights of The Chicago Booth UAE Alumni Club’s Annual Middle East conference in Dubai

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The Chicago Booth UAE Alumni Club’s Annual Middle East conference in Dubai, in conjunction with the Ideation Center, Booz & Company’s signature Middle East think tank, sets out to empower the Third Billion.

With a staggering 1 billion women expected to enter the global economy in the coming decade, the conference ‒ entitled ‘Women Entrepreneurs in MENA: Successes, Challenges and Policies‒ aims to provide insight into this group’s potential and challenges in the region

Conference details

The Chicago Booth UAE Alumni Club has hosted their Annual Middle East Conference on 16 January 2013 at Dubai’s Ritz-Carlton DIFC. The event ‒ entitled ‘Women Entrepreneurs in MENA: Successes, Challenges and Policies’ ‒ was organized in conjunction with the Ideation Center, Booz & Company’s signature Middle East think tank.

Top level speakers & strong attendance

The event was attended by 170 delegates coming from the UAE and neighboring MENA countries. Three different panels were organized to capture the different aspects of women entrepreneurship in the MENA region (challenges, success stories and policies). Delegates not only received valuable inputs from prominent experts on entrepreneurship in the MENA region like Dr. Nasser Saidi, Former Chief Economist of DIFCA and Executive Director of Hawkamah Institute, Dr. Leila Hoteit, Principal at Booz & Company and Nadereh Chamlou, Senior Advisor MENA at the World Bank; but they also exchanged ideas and comments through very active questions & answer sessions.

Dr. Nasser Saidi, Former Chief Economist of the Dubai International Financial Center and Executive Director of Hawkamah Institute, highlighted the significant demographic shifts research has shown. He spoke to the fact that, “ The per capita talent pool of university graduates coming from developing countries now far exceeds that of developed nations and the responsibility for societies to fully leverage these critical assets.”

Dr. Leila Hoteit, Principal at Booz & Company, detailed the Third Billion concept established by The Ideation Center and the myths about women entrepreneurs. According to Dr. Hoteit, “Women entrepreneurs no longer fit the models society has assumed for them, but are forging their own paths and creating new standards of excellence.”

Nadereh Chamlou, Senior Advisor Office to the Office of the Chief Economist for the MENA Region at the World Bank, challenged the conference attendees to strive for a time when we no do not have a distinct category for women entrepreneurs, but view them as entrepreneurs who happen to be women.

Mark Corusy, President of the Chicago Booth UAE Alumni noted that “The conference exceeded the Club’s expectations in terms of participation by fellow alumni, business and community leaders, and most importantly the active engagement of the many entrepreneurs in attendance. The UAE Alumni Club is committed to leverage the momentum created by the conference in our immediate and longer-term efforts related to entrepreneurship and education.”

Why this conference topic

Indeed, today, according to the Ideation Center’s landmark publication The Third Billion, women are among the fastest-growing groups of entrepreneurs in a number of countries. However, despite enormous economic contributions and real success stories, female entrepreneurship remains under-explored and inadequately covered in the MENA region due to cultural norms, barriers of doing business, and relatively low participation of women in entrepreneurial activity. Thus, MENA economies need to understand the challenges specific to women’s entrepreneurship, provide a more enabling business environment, and promote entrepreneurship with a particular focus on eliminating gender-specific barriers through policy instruments that are effective in raising entrepreneurship rates among women.

Support from corporate partners

This conference was made possible thanks to the generous support of several corporate organizations. More than pure sponsorship, their support was mainly motivated by their existing commitment to the growing influence and activity of women in the workforce. All our partners are closely involved with and participate to the development of women entrepreneurship in the MENA region. Jean-Paul Petoud, Chief Investment Officer of Emirates Investment Bank, said:  “Emirates Investment Bank is proud to support the Women Entrepreneurs in MENA event.  We have been part of the financial fabric of MENA since 1976 and continue to grow, preserve and protect the wealth and businesses of our clients across the region.  Such is the nature of growing a business, entrepreneurs in particular need financial services that are tailored to their unique and distinctive requirements.  Our flexible and personal approach provides the ideal fit for the aspiring business person; we bring a variety of financial service benefits, from access to a wide range of global investment services and solutions to investment banking advisory through to estate planning.  We cater for and celebrate the female entrepreneur.”

Other partners included Innu-Science, Dunia Finance, Microsoft, Khaleej Times, Wamda.com and The Intelligent SME magazine.

Chicago Booth Alumni in UAE

The conference is one of several initiatives organized each year by Booth UAE Alumni Club advocating the interests of its members and the university, providing continuing educational opportunities, promoting the exchange of ideas between club members and the community and encouraging the development of a strong and diverse association of MENA-area alumni. According to Mark Corusy, President of the Booth UAE Alumni Club, “We are most grateful for the support of the Ideation Center as well as all the other conference sponsors to enhance awareness of this critical topic and guide the club’s longer term mission and social responsibility efforts focused on entrepreneurship and education.”

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