In celebration of International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March, Aziza shares a blog about the challenges faced by women in business in Oman.

As a woman who chose to start her own small business, I chose to work in a field similar to my journalistic work, in which I spent twenty years moving between writing news, conducting interviews and undertaking investigative journalism concerning Omani society. Moreover, I held press seminars that discussed local community issues related to women’s business and their role in developing the economy.

The opportunity arose to begin a private business in the field of public relations and event management, around the time Oman was commencing with Vision 2040, which places leadership that can contribute to the economy at the core and gives added value in this respect. When the opportunity arose to establish my business, I benefited from the support of a small and medium enterprises organisation that had been established, along with the creation of business incubators. I was fortunate to be among the first group to work in partnership with these incubators, which provided me with a space at a lower cost compared to the market rates. Thus, the expenses associated with setting up a micro-business in a commercial location were reduced. Likewise, the business incubator reduced the amount that I paid for bills as a start-up.

Nonetheless, my experience as regards the incubator, which was supposed to promote microenterprises, failed to meet my expectations and ambitions. If truth be told, I imagined my business developing rapidly within the nurturing environment provided by the incubator, anticipating faster growth and greater profits than what transpired. I had in fact hoped for more comprehensive advice, support, and guidance to explore further opportunities.

Therefore, I decided to leave the incubator and launch my business independently. Like any business in the initial stages, I experienced highs and lows. I also encountered a degree of difficulty in establishing the professional relationships that would allow my business to develop and provide it with the opportunities that are necessary to enable it to progress. With respect to this, although I was a journalist with valuable connections and a presence in Omani society, compared to my male colleagues, my chances were limited.

Through my small business, I hosted seminars in which I presented the role of Omani women in creating job opportunities through their own and innovative businesses and contributing to the country’s economy. By way of these seminars, I ascertained that women entrepreneurs exist and work hard to prove themselves in challenging settings. However, they are few in number and in their contribution to the establishment of private companies and in their ability to create job opportunities.

My own vision, similar to that of the other businesswomen, was not just about creating a small company where I could spend my time after leaving my position as a journalist, it was to establish a business that is capable of innovation, creativity, continuity, profit and creating employment opportunities. From my perspective, as the owner of a small company, micro-businesses encounter barriers on a regular basis when working with incubators and current legislation. Consequently, the idea came to mind to study women’s micro-businesses in an attempt to make a small contribution to the study of societal and institutional practices that prevent the growth of women’s micro-businesses in a way that makes a valuable contribution to the economy and creates employment.

The research was established based on the contribution of women in Omani society, as they represent 49.7% or over three million of the total population, according to the latest population census. Based on Oman Vision 2040, this figure confirms that women play a significant role in the economic diversification of the local economy, as they account for 73% of SMEs in Oman. The total number of SMEs reached 89,452 in 2023. Additionally, according to the Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Riyada), last year women were running 8502 micro-businesses in Oman.

However, despite this, women are affected the most by the high unemployment rate in Oman. The current estimate implies that approximately 100,000 Omanis are unemployed. Of this number, 17% are women whereas 12% are male jobseekers. (NSC, 2023). Furthermore, the Omani economy needs to reform; hence, the government is exploring ways to develop a post-oil economy. Oil is currently considered the primary source of Oman’s gross domestic product (GDP), as it contributed 79.1% in 2022. Preparation for the post-oil period is being undertaken by encouraging and diversifying various economic sectors and preparing each one to contribute to the country’s GDP by promoting the growth of SMEs according to Oman Vision 2040. It is important to state that the contribution of SMEs amounted to two billion Omani rials in Omani non-oil exports in 2022 . On account of the government’s support of SMEs, women have launched micro-businesses to enable them to earn a living and participate in reducing the nation’s unemployment rate. Nevertheless, when establishing a SME, women are encountering challenges connected with the growth and expansion of existing institutions pertaining to gender owing to society’s norms. Moreover, it is worth noting that the present situation as regards women in the country is connected with the wider context of the Omani economy.

To examine the experience of women in microbusinesses in Oman, my PhD research adopts a qualitative exploratory study design by way of utilising thematic analysis to address the following research question: ‘How does funding, as a major institutional barrier, overlap with education and social networks in women’s micro-businesses in Muscat Governorate, Oman? A two-phase interview with women-owned micro-business and stakeholders responsible for developing private businesses will be employed to facilitate an understanding of the phenomena.’

The main focus of my study is women participants in micro-businesses within the Muscat area. The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the experiences, feelings and opinions of women entrepreneurs regarding the development of their micro-businesses beyond their current level and provide them with an opportunity to grow into bigger businesses.

The research also seeks to explore the perceptions of women entrepreneurs regarding the barriers that must be overcome. This includes examining the significance of establishing social and professional networks, exploiting education and training as tools to empower women’s entrepreneurship, and how best to use business incubators. Similarly, it considers providing access to available local support, so as to facilitate growth in women’s micro-businesses in Muscat Governorate. The study also investigates the potential benefits of women entrepreneurs in areas such as success in business, micro-business growth and leadership, with the aim of contributing to the national economy and Oman’s GDP within the Oman Vision, 2040.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *