The Humanitarian: Muna AbuSulayman
“I have worked in several industries: media, education, philanthropy entrepreneurship, and created my own company, and I found some of the biggest problems for GCC women in growing their business is networking, getting access to mentorship and capital.” Muna AbuSulayman, an active and influential Saudi national, talks to her online audience in both Arabic and English conveying ideas about fairness, current events, and expressing support for other achieving women in the Arab world. The co-host of Kalam Nawaem on MBC has amassed a huge online following, using her social media clout to draw attention to causes like the plight of Syrian refugees, and the importance of accurate information about Islam, amongst other issues that she considers pressing. The founder of her own company, she has a slew of NGO affiliations, and is efficient, accessible and professional when approached.
She’s also serious about seeing more women achieve great things in this region, and has a few ideas about how to make that more likely: “We have extremely savvy, well-educated, and well-prepared confident young women entering the entrepreneurship field, and most of these women don’t have access to the informal networking events where men create relationships to help make the big deal happen!” AbuSulayman adds that the ratio disparity of female to male mentors needs to be rectified, and soon, if women are going to hit the ground running. “Women also have a lousy card in mentorship since due to cultural taboos on cross-gender mentorship, and lack of enough successful female mentors, they’re not getting the right longterm guidance needed.”
In terms of marginalization and how important having the right connections can be, AbuSulayman clearly says that some women are more fortunate than others: “Lastly, all over the world, it is much harder for women to get access to capital. Some women are fortunate to have the backing of their family name, business and finances behind them and therefore get a leg up. The vast majority don’t. This creates a vicious cycle where most women become confined into micro, small businesses. This needs to be changed by helping women access capital, mentorship and create more culturally appropriate networking opportunities such as organized chamber of commerce trips, or invitations to speak -not just attend- in the usually male-dominated conference circuit.”