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Unpacking The Dreamhouse: Where Barbie's World Meets Entrepreneurial Gold To all the ladies balancing dreams in heels, remember: pressure can either burst pipes- or it can make diamonds.

By Ruwaida Abela Northen Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

​Warner Brothers

In the shimmering landscape of the Middle East, surrounded by architectural marvels that touch the skies, the journey of the modern female entrepreneur feels as thrilling as Ryan Gosling's dance routine in the Barbie movie.

But let's get real- how do you turn those ambitious dreams into reality? What does it take to step into the high heels of entrepreneurship? Especially when the shoe, more often than not, has been designed for a man.

For a woman in the Middle East, stepping into business is like breaking in a new pair of Manolos on the cobbled streets of Istanbul. Both a fashion statement, and an endurance test. It is daring, demanding, and oh-so rewarding. The challenges? As vast as the Arabian desert. But as the numbers show, the rise of women entrepreneurs in the region is nothing short of phenomenal.

Navigating business is like rummaging for that elusive sale-priced little black dress: a mission where size, style, and stars need to align. The path can be incredibly challenging for female entrepreneurs, given societal norms and gender biases. However, the world is teeming with inspiration, sometimes from the most unexpected sources. And speaking of pink-tinted revelations, who knew Barbie's latest silver screen stint would be more Wall Street than Malibu beach house?

Source: Warner Brothers

The Barbie movie isn't just a whirlwind adventure in pink- it's also a treasure trove of business insights. No, really! Here's how Barbie's journey and that of aspiring female entrepreneurs intersect in fabulous fashion:

1. Defy societal norms Barbie, despite her plastic fantastic world, resonates deeply with real-world struggles. Just as the character of Sasha felt the need to outgrow Barbie because of unrealistic beauty standards, female entrepreneurs face societal pressures to conform. The answer? Break the mold, and create your own definition of success. The Middle Eastern woman, often seen through the prism of societal norms, has now shifted the gaze. With each new startup, with every innovation, she's challenging stereotypes and rewriting the script. The significance? A 2019 report by the World Economic Forum noted that gender parity could enhance the Middle Eastern economy by over US$600 billion in the next five years. It's not just about equality; it's about economic evolution.

2. You don't have to be picture perfect In the movie, the character Gloria tells Barbie, "You are so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough. Like, we must always be extraordinary, but somehow, we're always doing it wrong." Gloria's words resonate deeper than my existential crisis choosing between two nearly identical shades of nail polish. Don't we all, especially in the corporate jungle, dance to the tune of being flawless, while the world critiques our every step? Talk about a complicated tango. Women often feel pressured to be perfect in every role- from entrepreneur, to mother, to partner, and beyond. Gloria's statement acknowledges this challenge, emphasizing that striving for absolute perfection is not just exhausting, but unrealistic. As women in business, it is vital to recognize that it's okay to not always be perfect. Women often navigate a paradoxical terrain where they are expected to be both assertive and nurturing, confident yet humble. Such conflicting expectations can be paralyzing. The lesson? Forge your own path. Define success on your terms, rather than trying to fit into pre-established molds.

Related: A Leap Of Faith: What It Takes To Be A Female Entrepreneur In A Male-Dominated Industry

3. Embrace authenticity and individuality Whether in Barbie Land or Business Bay, isn't the real accessoire de jour our unique flair? Why fit in, when you were born to stand out? Be it the trailblazing women in business who have shattered glass ceilings, or "Weird Barbie" celebrating her distinctiveness, the message is clear: individuality is a strength, not a weakness. Instead of focusing on what's perceived as "wrong" or "right," aim for authenticity. True leadership and success stem from being genuine, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and leading with empathy. The rich mosaic of characters in Barbie Land echoes the strength that diversity brings to the entrepreneurial world. Varied backgrounds and perspectives lead to innovation. Blaze your own trail, and watch as the world stops and stares.

4. Build bridges, not walls The film pitches the age-old idea of sisterhood over rivalry. In a world where women's choices are so scrutinized, isn't cheering for each other the most fashionable act of rebellion? Building a community of likeminded women who empower one another can be personally and professionally transformative. From the synergy between the characters of Barbie, Gloria, and Sasha in the movie, to real-world alliances between female entrepreneurs, the value of collaboration over competition shines brightly. It's not just about getting ahead- it's about lifting others as you rise. In the movie, Barbie's encounter with Ruth Handler -the inventor of the Barbie doll, for the uninitiated- is a heartwarming reminder to honor those who paved the way. Likewise, modern entrepreneurs stand on the shoulders of pioneering women. Their wisdom? More timeless than a vintage Chanel and just as iconic.

5. Embrace self-worth Self-doubt: the uninvited guest at every woman's soiree. But if the Barbie movie has a dress code, then it's self-belief with a side of sparkle. One of the film's key messages emphasizes the importance of self-belief. Recognize your value, and don't let external opinions or societal pressures diminish your self-esteem. In the movie, Ken's journey towards self-worth is a poignant lesson for all- entrepreneurs, especially women, must recognize and celebrate their intrinsic value.

Source: Warner Brothers

6. Resilience amidst adversity Challenges -be it in Barbie's pink-tinted world, or the corporate maze- are the stilettoes we're all trying to walk in. Some days, it's a strut; others, more of a stumble. From battling skeptical investors to facing internal struggles, the spirit of resilience stands out as the cornerstone for success. It's crucial to recognize that success is multifaceted. It's not just about hitting milestones or achieving targets. True success encompasses well-being, personal growth, and your positive impact on others. Just as Barbie Land undergoes transformation and growth, so should the entrepreneurial journey. Stagnancy is the antithesis of innovation.

7. Chart your course Just as Barbie trades her dream house for real-world drama in the movie, or an entrepreneur zeroes in on that one-of-a-kind niche, it's all about wearing your decision-making hat. If an idea gives you the same thrill as stumbling upon the last pair of designer boots in your size, chase it like it's the season's hottest trend. Remember, in the ever-evolving runway of business, every knockdown is just the universe's way of asking: "How badly do you want it?"

Between Barbie's cinematic escapades and the real-world roller coaster rides of female entrepreneurs, there's a whole wardrobe of lessons to be tried on. These stories remind us ladies to not only wear our truths, but to accessorize them boldly. To strut confidently, to flip the script, and to never dim our own dazzling light in the corporate catwalk.

The World Economic Forum sees a style update on the horizon: a business world draped in diversity, tailored with soul, and embroidered with that multi-hustle flair. Seems like the corporate spotlight is finally adjusting for women to make their entrance, don't you think?

To all the ladies balancing dreams in heels, remember: pressure can either burst pipes- or it can make diamonds.

Related: Caviar Dreams On An Instant Noodles Budget (Or Why It's Important To Learn The Art Of The Hustle)

Ruwaida Abela Northen

Founder and CEO, JRN Consultancy

Ruwaida Abela Northen is the founder and CEO of JRN Consultancy

Hailing from the sun-kissed shores of Tripoli, Libya, Ruwaida waltzed into the world of luxury hospitality with the poise of a debutante. At the tender age of 18, she embarked on a career that would carry her across the continents, from the bustling bazaars of Asia to the ancient ruins of Europe and the sandy dunes of the Middle East. With over two decades of experience tucked under her belt, Ruwaida has become a veritable virtuoso in the realms of consumer marketing, corporate communications, and high-impact campaigns, not to mention her finesse in public and media relations. A polyglot, she speaks English, Arabic, and Maltese fluently, and dabbles in Turkish as well.

Ruwaida's odyssey began with the Corinthia Group in Libya, then she hopped over to Malta with Starwood, and further jetted to Bahrain with the Ritz-Carlton. From there, it was off to Qatar, where she worked her magic with Shangri-La Group. Climbing the corporate ladder with agility and determination, Ruwaida ultimately ascended to the role of Vice President for PR and Corporate Communications overseeing the Middle East, India, Indian Ocean, Europe and the Americas, shattering glass ceilings as the first Arab woman to hold such a position in the company's history.  

In 2021, Ruwaida decided to chart her own course, establishing JRN Consultancy, a boutique agency specializing in luxury lifestyle, travel, and hospitality. With its headquarters nestled in the glitzy skyline of Dubai and representation in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, JRN embodies the spirit of a "journey." A fierce advocate for female empowerment, Ruwaida has built an all-women team, who, under her guidance, are conquering the world one luxury experience at a time. Collaborating with the crème de la crème of international brands, Ruwaida balances her professional life as a wife, mother of four, and author, frequently contributing her insights to business and lifestyle publications such as Hia, Sayidaty, Arabian Business and Entrepreneur, as well as by being a regular guest speaker at many conferences across the region. 

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