In July 2013, The Economist spotlighted the seemingly “surprising” statistic that approximately 35% of tech entrepreneurs in Western Asia are women, which supposedly outstrips that of entrepreneurs who are women in places like North America and Europe. Many on the Internet have said their surprise stems from the [mis]conception that women in Western countries are “less oppressed” than their Western Asian counterparts, and so they should perform better in this area.
But I think people really shouldn’t be surprised. As the old adage goes, “adversity breeds success.” A number of women in Western Asia think that they may be even better prepared for the rough and tumble tech entrepreneurship world not only because of high rates of tertiary education completion in the region, but also because they are skilled at forging partnerships and compromises with the managerial skills developed in the country contexts they live in.
Here’s five reasons why I think we need to jettison the surprise and start to celebrate the success of Western Asian women in tech entrepreneurship:
1. Success anywhere for women in tech is success for us all.
2. Especially in the wealthier countries of Western Asia, imagine the potential if ventures [co-]generated by women were able to gain access to funding that made their ideas a reality! What innovations might await us?
3. For women in more conservative areas of Western Asia, the ability to gain virtual mobility through remote working is a nascent, and possibly transformative, avenue for them to make further contributions to their societies.
4. Frankly, hearing something like this from a region that is somewhat under-discussed in ICT4D is like a breath of fresh air. Is Latin America next on the move?
5. The inspiration to young girls in Western Asia that undoubtedly comes from seeing their female compatriots succeed in an area that they may not have previously believed was open to them.