In a world traditionally dominated by men, women are becoming a much more common sight in executive positions.

Loulou Khazen Baz
Founder & CEO
Sophie Le Ray
Co-Founder & CEO

How is the experience of the female entrepreneur unique?

LOULOU KHAZEN BAZ I felt that being a woman was an advantage. There is a lot happening here to encourage women to participate in the economy. Of course, there are challenges. Sometimes you meet people who are very conservative or who work in certain countries that are more conservative. You meet people that you don't feel give you the respect that you deserve; however, respect is earned. This is something we can work on; it is not a dead end. If they perceive that I am a woman, and incapable for that reason alone, then we prove them wrong. So, I don't face any challenges for being a woman. We are operating in Dubai, which is very open and cosmopolitan, and the majority of our users and activities have been in the UAE and Lebanon; however, as the business grows I would anticipate more markets. Sometimes people have issues with women bosses. When people tell me nabbesh should be like one big happy family, I disagree. When you encourage a family environment, people can lose that thin line that is there between a colleague and a family member. I don't think everyone should love you; they should respect you and know that you are taking them in the right direction. You should have fun, but there is a line of respect and communication that should not be crossed.

How did the “Women Leadership" conference come about?

SOPHIE LERAY What I do for a living is create platforms for global business leaders to connect around the world. I was able to travel and experience many conferences as a business owner, and I often noticed women would tend to stand aside from the action. It was not that they were put there, but rather that they had an inner shyness. I wondered why this was, and after discussing it, I found it was because women don't take advantage of networking opportunities in the same way that men do. The conference came from the idea of creating an environment where women in high-level positions could naturally, easily, and comfortably network with each other. That is what my company is doing; facilitating deal making. It is not only a question of knowledge sharing, but also of being able to network and do business. That is what makes this platform successful.

What are some of the common challenges that an entrepreneur faces both in Dubai and in general?

LKB It's funny because some people from the outside think it is easy. I got the feeling that when I decided to leave my job, people were amazed. I think the perception about entrepreneurship is that if you are unemployable, or not good at what you do, you become an entrepreneur, which is wrong. People in successful corporate careers don't see it that way at all. Entrepreneurship is very challenging on all fronts, personally and professionally, as you are really required to push yourself; you have many responsibilities. I wanted to build something that had a purpose, something bigger than a small freelance venture. This comes with many challenges.

SL We hire many young, fresh graduates. For them, it is easier here than anywhere else. There is a vibrant job market; especially considering that the EU and the US are still suffering economically. Many Europeans are coming here. There is a lot of talent here and a high demand for it, making it a unique job market in the currently tumultuous world economy. When I was fresh out of college, I went to the US because it was the place to be, but now it's the turn of the GCC.