Thousands of women from Jordan and across the region have signed up to a business networking page on Facebook.
By Dina Al Wakeel
Although networking Facebook page Women in Business was only created in March last year, it’s so far managed to attract almost 30,000 followers from Jordan and the wider Middle East.
Fida Taher, the page’s creator and herself a serial entrepreneur, hopes it will evolve further in the future to become a powerful lobby.
When did you start women in business?
There was a woman who wanted help finalizing her pitch so she can approach investors. So I came to help her with a few things. She did 99 percent of the work and I helped her with the last 1 percent tweaking things and making a few adjustments. When she finally closed, she came back and asked me what I wanted in return; cash or equity in her company, when all along I was doing it from my heart. It’s not that I’m a really good person, it’s just that this is how mentorship works. So I got a little angry that day and I created a Facebook page group thinking it would be great if I could manage to bring together 100 to 200 women to share articles, advice and contacts to open doors and so on. And that was the only goal. I just wanted to prove to myself that we do help each other. Then it picked up organically and that’s how it grew.
How has it developed over recent months?
I wanted to put structure and rules but then I started thinking maybe I should just leave it until I understood what the 30,000 women who were part of it wanted. Seventy percent of these women are in Jordan. There are other nationalities as well. So, I let it grow organically and just followed up with job posts that women posted to see if they were able to hire. I asked people from the community to help me coordinate the group and they changed with time. It’s a rotation of people. I realized from the feedback we had gathered that 400 women were employed in part- or full-time jobs through other women on the group. More than 50 events were created because of this group. So, I realized that if I came from the beginning and tried to dictate what this group is, it wouldn’t have become what it became. Tamara Abdel Jaber is a partner in this. She is behind the scenes helping with strategy and how to take things forward. We were approached by different embassies and donors but were scared to take money from anyone because right now it’s a community that’s developing on its own. The only agenda is the one that’s created by the women.
Does it involve mentorship?
One of the things we were discussing is to monetize through mentorship to be sustainable. Since Tamara and I come from the private sector, we don’t really want to create an institution that depends on funds. But the central idea is to have a sustainable business model. So, we were thinking of mentorship or consulting.
What are your long-term ambitions for the page?
I see it going many places. And I keep thinking that we have to follow where the numbers go and pay attention to them. This is why we keep asking for feedback and create focus groups. Because we want to know where they see it going and facilitate this growth. I met with Facebook many times, and they have identified Women in Business as one of the most engaging groups in the region. It’s over 80 percent on a monthly basis. Some women found mentors and investors. I’m not claiming Women in Business is ideal, but I think this is great if it causes change for the better. I’m dreaming that this will cause real power on the ground to inflict change in policy. I think it is achievable. I’m studying impact investing right now and there’s something wrong with the investment climate. Gender lens investing is important and women’s situations are different. Maybe they need advisory boards, or more mentorship. But it’s an area that I’m personally venturing into. My 10-year dream is to be able to create a lobby.