From fierce women steering fashion platforms to fearless engineers radically transforming Egypt’s rural landscape, female entrepreneurship in the Middle East has risen considerably over the last few years; but are women receiving the educational resources to achieve their full potential? Stepping up to overturn the gender gap in the MENA entrepreneurial world – only 24 percent of tech startups are funded by women, according to an Arabnet report - Facebook launched #SheMeansBusiness, including a series of online marketing courses for businesswomen in the Middle East. The initiative, launched in parallel throughout partnerships with key actors across different regions, aims to train at least 10,000 women on online marketing fundamentals and sustainable business practices.

In the Middle East, Facebook teamed up with UAE’s Sheraa Sharjah and Emirates Foundation, as well as Egypt’s Ahead of the Curve, led by the prominent social businesswoman Dina Sherif. “We got involved because we believe in the economic power of women. A lot of women are using social media in their businesses, but they are not using it properly and they aren't using it to scale. The training program teaches them how to use social media in a way that can help grow their businesses," she says.

Women comprise half of the world’s population, but roadblocks to successful female business ownership leave a wealth of untapped potential in the global market, potentially as much as 34 percent GDP growth. In Egypt, she bosses now account for only 11 percent of entrepreneurs, compared to just three percent in 2007. According to a 2014 report from US-based Global Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Egypt scored 28th out of 30 countries surveyed for ease and straightforwardness of female entrepreneurs owning and growing businesses.

The fact that women are expected to be full-time homemakers places strain on them to maintain two careers at once—one in the home and one in business. These exhausting demands prevent them from obtaining more traditional business education and lack knowledge of marketing and business management fundamentals. For this reason, many female Egyptian entrepreneurs rely on their phones and social media to run their ventures.

Free to anyone willing to sign up through their Facebook account, #SheMeansBusiness is an interactive learning portal with courses for anyone who plans to use social networking in marketing. The course has 14 different modules, each about 15 minutes in length. They’re information-heavy yet easy to digest, with plenty of helpful visuals and charts clearly outlining the concepts. The course material includes Facebook terminology and page creation tips, brand awareness, advertising strategy, and best practices for business and marketing. Plus, the portal features insights on global trends in women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment and inspirational female success stories. 

For more information, check out the #SheMeansBusiness page.

Main image: Dina Sherif, by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.