'A male-dominated world' - PR mogul on Dubai's gender balance

Briar Prestidge, founder of an eponymous Dubai-based PR firm, gives her view on a new report revealing that hardly any investment in new start-ups in MENA was in companies founded by women.

Briar Prestidge talks gender balance in the UAE
Briar Prestidge talks gender balance in the UAE

The founder of Briar Prestidge International (BPI) has reacted to the landmark report, by event organiser Arabnet, in partnership with The Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development (Dubai SME).

It analysed 1,423 regional investments in start-ups across the MENA region last year and found that only 14 percent of deals were with start-ups founded by women.

BPI is a PR and media production agency based in Dubai, London and New York, which works with world leaders, CEOs, governments, entertainers and strategists, and Prestidge said she was nonplussed by the key findings of the study - saying it (the gender imbalance) "is also low all over the world".

"From being in the start-up space myself and from running my monthly live talk show event, I have met many other female founders over the years, but often find the start-up ecosystem in Dubai to be a mainly male-dominated world," said Prestidge, who is the organiser of live monthly talk show event series Deals in High Heels. She has also been a participant in a recent Amazon Prime global TV series on entrepreneurship.

While 2018 saw the launch of technology funds focused on women, such as Mindshift Capital, which invests in female-led, early-stage tech businesses at the post-seed, and accelerator programmes to support female entrepreneurs such as Womentum, the Arabnet report also found that more still needs to be done as "very few of the start-ups with female founders raise big-ticket deals".

However, Prestidge, a young entrepreneur originally from a small farm in New Zealand, said she was positive the tide could be turned tide in the Emirates to promote women.

"After coming from New Zealand and living in New York and London prior to living in Dubai, I have always felt welcomed as a female entrepreneur in Dubai, and think that Dubai is an excellent place to run a business," Prestidge said.

"I’ve noticed there has been increased focus on the UAE entrepreneurial ecosystem from the overseas media and producers the last few years, including on female founders.

The last few years there has also been more research carried out on how we can further support women in business, so it will be interesting to see what becomes of this," she said.

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