Posted on March 3, 2021
Berytech has dedicated a track of activities to support women entrepreneurs in overcoming the constraints they face to thrive in entrepreneurship and in maximizing their potential contributions to the Lebanese economy.
Within this track, Berytech has aimed to motivate women to launch, grow and succeed in their own ventures by creating customized programs, competitions and tracks, identifying successful role models, and influencing policies towards the support of women entrepreneurs especially in the digital sector.
“Quoting Charles-Maurice De Talleyrand-Périgord, where so many men fail, a woman can succeed. It is with this mindset that we deem the unconditional support of women entrepreneurship to be a collective responsibility if we want a better performing economy. Berytech is dedicated to this and calls on all the ecosystem to do the same,” comments Maroun N. Chammas – Chairman and CEO of Berytech.
On this International Women’s Day 2021, we share with you our take on empowering women entrepreneurs, choosing to challenge and how we are helping to forge a gender equal world.
“The women we meet at Berytech generally tend to engage in entrepreneurship with smaller projects and we want to help them think about their business ideas in a larger framework. The Berytech team pushes women entrepreneurs to create innovative companies and to get out of the traditional framework,” explains Joanna Abi Abdallah – head of Business Development and Support at Berytech.
Most women entrepreneurs face major obstacles such as discrimination, lack of financial support and limited access to networks, which explains their reluctance to enter the business world. Berytech’s understanding of these facts is a major asset for women with an entrepreneurial spirit. But there’s good news too: around 252 million women around the world are entrepreneurs, and another 153 million women operate well-established businesses. The percentage of female entrepreneurs has increased by 114% in the last 20 years.
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Lebanon represent 95 percent of all companies in Lebanon and account for 50 percent of national employment. According to the 2019 World Bank Enterprise Survey, 9.9% of all these are co-owned by women.
In all regions except North America, the share of women with access to a financial account is lower than that of men. In the Middle East & North Africa, men are 19% more likely to have a financial account than women; and a bigger gap remains for full financial inclusion. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East & North Africa, less than 40% women have a financial account. Financial exclusion poses a great challenge, especially, for women entrepreneurs as they try to access capital to start, operate, and/or expand their businesses. Empowering women requires great efforts in many dimensions and promoting women entrepreneurship is one of the key avenues.
Funding, which has a major impact on women who are in business, is increasing at a very slow rate in Lebanon. Berytech is offering business support to help overcome this problem. “At Berytech, we integrate the learning of specific and relevant skills to help women entrepreneurs start and manage a business. We have seen high attendance at our trainings and workshops, so women recognize their need to learn and are eager to work on their entrepreneurial skills,” continues Abi Abdallah.
Berytech is keen on providing equal opportunities and support to all women in their entrepreneurial journey. While we believe that women should naturally be equally involved in our community, we reinforce that by setting a female quota for all our programs and by partnering with programs and competitions specifically designed for women.
Recent events in Lebanon have multiplied the challenges facing women-led startups and small and medium enterprises.
At the end of 2019, Lebanon was hit by its worst economic crisis since the end of its civil war. The liquidity crunch and economic meltdown left many businesses in the country struggling to survive.
More recently, an added layer of challenges emerged due to the recent global COVID-19 pandemic that has swept over the world. Supply chain disruptions and shop closures due to lockdowns have led to dramatic drops in sales and cash flows across Lebanon’s startups and SMEs, which are struggling to pay and retain employees, cover operational costs such as rent, move inventory that is sitting idle due to decreased demand or access to supplies due to collapsing supply chains.
Insufficient knowledge and tactics by entrepreneurs to navigate exactly these issues, which are vital for surviving both crises, have resulted in women-led businesses struggling more and being hit even harder. In addition, this pandemic is changing the way businesses are operating. Increased work from home modalities has huge implications on women with childcare and elderly responsibilities. In addition, market opportunities in new sectors, products and services are emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result in shifting lifestyles and consumer patterns and agile companies are starting to re-orient their business to capitalize on these opportunities as a survival and growth strategy. Female entrepreneurs might miss these shifts and the need to innovate their business model.
Therefore, it is more crucial than ever to provide women entrepreneurs with the skills and know-how to manage their businesses during these crises – especially when managing their business and family from home – and provide practical solutions to the challenges that affect the short and long-term performance of their businesses.
The World Bank Group has partnered with Berytech and the Lebanese League for Women in Business to provide capacity building for women to want to grow their businesses and enhance their business model, marketing, financing, and networking opportunities. A key component addressed is on identifying links with financial institutions and programs and identify sources of funding. Berytech and LLWB are providing customized trainings in addition to mentorship sessions to participating trainers and women-led businesses.
This program supports the economic mobility of women in Lebanon, helping them to grow sustainable businesses that are market-oriented, profitable, scalable, and which will facilitate job creation or maintain existing jobs. This Program is produced as part of the Mashreq Gender Facility (MGF), a World Bank – IFC initiative in collaboration with the governments of Canada and Norway. Read more about the Crisis Management Program for Women-Led Businesses.
Since 2012, the Middle East Regional Directorate of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Berytech, L’Orient-Le Jour and Commerce du Levant have joined forces to organize an annual competition for French-speaking women with a startup idea.
Every year, Berytech plays an active role in planning, implementing and disseminating the Femme Francophone Entrepreneure competition. Berytech also incubates the winners for 6 months, providing them with working space, training workshops, coaching sessions and participation in other programs. “Through this competition, we encourage women entrepreneurs to establish innovative companies that go beyond the traditional framework; and we empower these women to play a leading role of in the Lebanese economy,” says Abi Abdallah.
Groupe Bel – the multinational cheese marketer, teamed up with Berytech to launch the ‘Kiri Mompreneur Challenge’ to help mothers develop their innovative idea or project into a viable business. The official announcement came on Mother’s Day 2019, celebrated on March 21 in Lebanon. The 30 shortlisted Mompreneurs attended several trainings from understanding the Lean Canvas to creating a business plan.
Berytech partnered with the Lebanese League for Women in Business to create a series of articles titled ‘Women on Top’ published on the Berytech blog. “The purpose was to highlight women entrepreneurs and executives by writing a series of motivational interviews about their stories, overcoming their own challenges and their entrepreneurial endeavors,” comments Reina Dib Angoujard, Head of Communication and Outreach at Berytech. Read the Women on Top Series.
On a corporate level, 60% of the senior positions are held by women at Berytech, where women employees also outnumber the men (representing 61% of the workforce). Businesses and nonprofits that actively support gender equality tend to make better business decisions —and ultimately make more money. Research shows that inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time, and that teams with less diversity are more likely to make poor choices for their companies.
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.
Berytech chooses to challenge. We invite you all to join and lead the change.