UAE-based community for women entrepreneurs, Female Fusion introduced its first business directory for businesses across the MENA region that are owned and founded by women. CEO at Female Fusion, Jen Blandos, tells Communicate about how this directory is only their first step towards bridging the worldwide social issue of the gender gap between male and female businesspersons.
What was once just a mere Facebook group of passionate businesswomen across the region, has now evolved into a professional community for women in business in the UAE. Female Fusion, is a network of over 20,000 women who are either already in business, or in the process of building it. Under this umbrella, the organization has launched the UAE’s very first directory that is dedicated to businesses founded, owned, and run by women in the country.
As per the Gender Gap report for 2021, the proportion of women among skilled professionals continues to increase, as does progress towards wage equality, albeit at a slower pace. Overall income disparities are still only part way towards being bridged and there is a persistent lack of women in leadership positions, with women representing just 27% of all manager positions globally. Amid these findings, UAE ranked among the top five ‘most improved’ countries for making progress on the social issue last year, according to the report.
“We created a women owned business directory to help women get their fair share of procurement. We wanted to find a way to positively support women-owned businesses to give them access to those opportunities. A lot of these fellow MNCs and government entities don’t know where to find businesses run by women and so that in itself was a bit of a problem. This directory help solve the issue and connect women running their companies connect with related entities,” says Blandos.
In the image above: Jen Blandos, CEO, Female Fusion
How does the directory work?
The directory offers two types of listings for those that wish to sign up — a premium and a basic listing. Those who are a part of Female Fusion’s paid membership network, known as the Fusion Circle, are offered a premium listing at no extra cost. The premium listing allows businesses to fully highlight their specialties through various channels like video, social media, product photos, etc. Non-members can also be listed in the Directory — the basic listing is free apart from a Dh100 annual fee for trade license verification.
We've got about 1500 different categories and more are being added all the time. We’re open to doing anything we can do to support our members and how we onboard them, I have a team solely responsible for the directory. Since the directory allows people to create their profiles themselves, my team actually goes through every single profile to make sure that it's done in a way that's going to help the listed business look approachable. So, my team is helping them understand how to do your profile, what pictures or videos to upload, what links to include and all other sorts of information,” explains Blandos.
Image: supplied. Categories of businesses enlisted in the women's directory.
To be listed in the business directory, owners must submit their trade licenses annually to Female Fusion through the directory to initiate the verification process and to confirm they are licensed to trade in the services they are offering.
What does the directory signify?
Female Fusion chose UAE to first launch this directory as it has been extremely vocal about its support of female-founded businesses. The Ministry of Economy reported that 50% of the SMEs in the country are women-owned and 48% of women business owners are also the sole owners of their firms. These businesses employ about 20% of the workforce and contribute about 20% to the country’s GDP.
Blandos further explains, “We also created this directory as a way of showing companies, government entities and also the general public, that there are so many incredible businesses that you can have access to, that are owned by women. So, we're looking at this as a way to not only support our Female Fusion members but also contribute to improving the economy.”
The community is currently aiming to register 1000 businesses by the end of next summer. “We already have 500 businesses registered with us and are aiming for the next half now,” says Blandos.
“The UAE has and always will be our priority and since we are very passionate about what we’re doing, we would want to expand the efforts of this directory. We’re actively working on growing to two other markets and it will happen relatively soon,” adds Blandos.
Additionally, Female Fusion will continue to organize various online and in-person networking events and masterclasses for its community of female entrepreneurs. They’ve also built a digital library with information about running a business in the UAE, among other channels of support for women to grow their businesses.