Overlooked, disregarded - but also labelled as "bossy" when they take control - female entrepreneurs have long fought a silent battle. In a country like Egypt, gender inequality hinders a potential 34 percent GDP growth, according to an IMF report; but worldwide, figures are not very different - gender inequality is a staggering reality in the startup scene, where underrepresentation, sexual harassment, and unequal opportunities are common.
Indeed, even across the top 20 startup ecosystems with more lady bosses there is underrepresentation of women management and founding positions. Chicago, at the top of the list, indicates of a 30 percent presence of women founders, while Silicon Valley and New York have 24 and 16 percent of women founders respectively. "The tech scene tends to favour men, and in specific, white men,” Womena's co-founder, Elissa Freiha said in an interview with Startup Scene. But, showcasing unmeasurable doses of grit and passion, female entrepreneurs have been breaking not only the glass ceiling, but also the silence. This December, as the RiseUp Summit kicks off at the heart of Cairo for its fifth edition, some of the boldest, most outspoken and wittiest entrepreneurs will take over the stage. Here's 10 of them:
1. Joy Ajlouny
While only 2.7 percent of venture capital funding has been raised by women, Joy has successfully raised funds for two startups from the most prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firms; a figure which puts her in the top 1 percent of female entrepreneurs. The co-founder of leading e-commerce startup Fetchr - the first MENA startup to be funded by a top VC in Silicon Valley - Joy Ajlouny's influence in business and entrepreneurship has spanned the globe. By using patented technology that allows people to use their mobile phone’s GPS location as their address, her Dubai-based startup tackles the “no-address” problem which has been hindering growth in emerging markets. She was recently on the cover of Forbes Magazine in the Middle East, which named Fetchr the top 1 startup in the region. The company has raised $52 million in investment, including a $41 million series B round in May 2017. Prior to Fetchr, Joy founded Bonfaire, an e-commerce discovery platform for luxury footwear and accessories which was acquired by fashion e-commerce giant Moda Operandi, owned by LVMH and Condé Nast.
2. Mona Ataya
One of the Middle East’s most renowned female entrepreneurs. Mona Ataya is the Founder and CEO of Mumzworld.com, the pioneer and Leading e-commerce Vertical for Mother, Baby and Child shopping in the Middle East. Mumzworld.com was founded 7 years ago with the vision of empowering mothers to make the most informed purchase decisions for their children and ultimately making their lives easier. Key to Mumzworld’s DNA is creating a brand with a meaningful social impact and its aggressive expansion plans, led by its incursion into Saudi Arabia in 2017. Mona has won numerous awards in the past year including the 100 most Powerful Arab Women 2014 and 2015, and amongst the World's 100 Most Powerful Arabs - Generation Next - Arabian Business, 2014. Atayah will be sharing a panel with Khaled Talhouni, Ziad Mokhtar, and Kunal Kapoor, titled "Thinking About Your Next Round," on December 3rd at 10:00 AM.
3. Elissa Freiha
Leading a talk titled "The Future is female and Womena will lead the way," on December 2nd, Elissa Freiha is one of the most outspoken advocates on female entrepreneurship
in the region. The Emirati-American angel investor is the founder of Womena, an award-winning Dubai-based angel investment platform focused on supporting startups led - or targeting - women in the Middle East. As one of the regions most active angel investors, with over 40 investments between North America and MENA, she has won numerous awards including being the first female recognised as Investor of the Year at the Arabian Business Start Up Awards. She is frequently listed as one of the 30 women under 30 by Forbes Middle East and by Arabian Business as one of the 100 most influential Arabs in the world.
4. Amy Mowafi
The woman spearheading the media empire she built with her three brothers, MO4’s own Amy Mowafi knows no moulds. In 2007, she wrote Fe-mail
, an outspoken account of her trials as an Egyptian girl looking for love, commitment, and marriage in Egyptian society, followed by a second part where she sarcastically tells her challenges as a married woman. After spending 10 years as the Managing Editor at Enigma, she joined her brothers in 2011 to launch the MO4Network. In just six years, MO4 has become one of the region's leading creative digital agencies boasting a team of over 200 employees and more than 150 clients across offices in Cairo and Dubai. MO4 is also the company behind leading regional media platforms, CairoZoom.com
, CairoScene.com, ElFasla.com, and our own StartupSceneme.com.
5. Mai Medhat
Probably Egypt's most celebrated female entrepreneur, Mai Medhat was catapulted to the global stage when she was called on stage by former US president Barack Obama
at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2016. The CEO and co-founder of Eventtus - an events engagement platform and the leading event app provider in the Middle East - the entrepreneur recently made waves once again, when she raised a massive $2 million from Algebra Ventures and 500 Startups
. The company has so far successfully served 9,000 events and 180,000 attendees since then and growing into more than 15 countries. Mai was named “Entrepreneur of the year" by Arabian Business in 2016 and she has been recognised by the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 as one of the most promising entrepreneurs.
6. Hend Sabry
The Tunisian actress started acting at the age of fourteen. when she starred in the Tunisian movie Samt al Qosoor (Silences of the Palace), a film which catapulted her to national fame, as she was given her first best actress award from the Carthage Film Festival at the age of fifteen. She then starred in several Tunisian productions, until she got the attention of Egyptian Director Inas Al Degheidy, who chose her for the lead role in Muzakirat Murahiqua (A Teenager’s Diary), a role that propelled her to stardom in Egypt and the Arab world. By that time, she had already gotten her Law degree in 2001 from the Faculty of Juridical, Political & Social Sciences in Tunis and then completed her Masters in Intellectual property law and copyrights in 2003.
Since 1995, Hend played remarkable roles in several Egyptian and Tunisian Films and has received over 25 International awards in appreciation of her achievements as an actress. She has also taken part in many juries and held honorary positions in local and international film festivals such as being the President of the Narrative Jury Doha Tribeca Film Festival in 2013, and the 45th International Rotterdam Film Festival in 2015, where she was the first Arab artist to join the Official Competition’s Jury. She was also selected as the Honorary President of The International Arab Film Festival in Gabès in 2015, and was chosen as the Arab world brand ambassador for the Swiss luxury watches manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen. Hend Sabry is also active in social and humanitarian work; since 2009, she has been working closely with the UN World Food Program to raise awareness about hunger in the region. In 2010, she officially became a goodwill Ambassador for WFP. France's Ministry of Culture also granted her the honorary title of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) in 2014 for her contribution in Arts, Culture and Cinema. And since 2016, Hend sits as Chairman of the Board of the Digital Film Company Tayarah
7. Amira Rashad
Having worked as the Head of Brand for Facebook Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, Amira Rashad is now the CEO of BulkWhiz, the first bulk grocery e-commerce platform in the Middle East that uses home-grown artificial intelligence. As Facebook's Head of Brand, she worked hand by hand with the MENA's key players in the startup ecosystem. Having advised Fortune 500 companies as a senior consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, she also led teams at PepsiCo, Yahoo, Dun & Bradstreet, and Leo Burnett Advertising, while working in the US, Europe, Middle East and Africa. She is also a board member of Tech Wadi in Silicone Valley and The MIT Enterprise Forum Middle East.
8. Amal Dokhan
Amal is the Director of Babson Global Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership, she is responsible for the strategic direction, tactical execution and operational oversight of the Centre. The BGCEL focuses on expanding the practice of Entrepreneurship in all levels focusing on activities related to scaling up SMES, female entrepreneurship, angel investment and many other entrepreneurship related areas. She has a diverse range of experience in management, teaching, training and marketing related roles, particularly in education. Over the past four years, Amal has played multiple leading roles at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and at the Entrepreneurship Centre in particular. She managed the university startup accelerator, which was funded by Saudi British Bank (SABB) and hosted twenty-eight startup teams in its first edition with a variety of technologies including IOT, New Materials, Software and Biotechnology from 13 different universities. Previously, Amal managed an educational organisation where she designed programs and innovative initiatives to be implemented by educators in any available setting. In addition to teaching, Amal ran her own business, which organised mega marketing events and offered commercial consultancy to large organisations. She was also involved with a joint venture with a startup in Dubai focused on creating media and production services to a variety of agencies. Amal Also taught Services Marketing at Wollongong University and published several business articles focused on services marketing. She also participated in many international and regional events as a speaker and a trainer in innovation and Social Design Thinking such as TEDx, the annual Conference of the Islamic Development Bank in Mozambique and Jeddah, Startup Istanbul, UC Berkeley boot camp in Turkey and MIT enterprise forum. In addition, Amal designed and taught organisational and corporate innovation programs across different parts of the world including USA, Canada, South Africa, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
9. Clarissa Shen
Clarissa Shen is an optimist about technology’s impact on education, having co-founded a K-12 start-up and led digital change at Apollo Group. As an executive, she managed a digital marketing team ranked in the top 10 US marketing leaders by Google, led an internationally-renowned touring contemporary dance company, and advised Fortune 500 and government clients throughout Greater China, Asia, and Europe as a management consultant with Deloitte Monitor Group. She joined Udacity as the first business hire and built the company's early Marketing, Business Development, and Strategic Sales functions. As Vice President, International, she now leads Udacity international markets and launched the company's operations in India, China, Brazil, Europe, and Middle East. Shen will be hosting a talk titled "Hacking EdTech," along with prominent investor an author Chris Schroeder, on December 1st, at 4:00 PM.
10. Cy Wakeman
Cy Wakeman is an international keynote speaker, Drama Researcher, New York Times bestselling author, and global thought leader with over 25 years experience cultivating a new approach to leadership. Grounded in reality, Wakeman’s philosophy has helped organizations and individuals all over the world learn to ditch the drama and turn excuses into results. An expert blogger on Forbes.com and The Huffington Post, Wakeman’s ideas have been featured on the TODAY Show, The New York Times, Business Insider and Success.com. She was voted #15 on the Global Guru’s list of Top 30 Leadership Professionals for 2017. Wakeman will be leading a talk titled "Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo: Self-reflection as a foundation for Talent Development," on December 1st, at 3:00PM.
Check out the rest of the speakers and find out more about the summit on their website.