Iranian Female Entrepreneurs Face Grueling Task

Most banks don’t sanction loans to women while others ask them to visit with their husbands in order to apply for a loan
Although more women now are working alongside men, the traditional views persist in the society.Although more women now are working alongside men, the traditional views persist in the society.

Women have never had it easy when it comes to entrepreneurship in Iran. Despite the measures taken and efforts made, they still face numerous challenges.

At a roundtable at ISNA’s pavilion at the 22nd Press Exhibition which concluded on Friday in Tehran, three members of the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs (NAWE) discussed the challenges before women on the path to becoming business leaders and top managers.

“Launching a business is difficult in all countries,” said Farahnaz Moradi, managing director of Shomaran System accounting firm and member of the Iranian Accounting Association.

“However, in order to create wealth and boost employment, in other countries credit facilities are offered to support entrepreneurs, and potentially successful projects are at times subsidized.”

Zahra Naqavi, board member and head of communications at NAWE, cited lack of access to financial resources and lobbying as the most grueling problems.

“Most banks don’t trust women to sanction loans and others ask them to visit the bank with their husbands in order to apply for a loan,” she rued.

“Moreover, there are no women in the jury departments of the judiciary, while the World Bank says that women in business might find themselves needing legal action and female jury members might have a better understanding of their problems, and therefore contribute to a more just ruling,” she noted.

  Ease of Doing Business

“In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking included in the annual report titled ‘Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All’, Iran ranked 120th out of 190 economies,” Moradi noted. “That is three notches down from its 117th place in the previous year.”

According to the report, which analyzes countries’ business environments by breaking them down into 10 broad categories in accordance with the business life cycle from start to closure, Iran received 57.26 points in total out of 100, while New Zealand, Singapore, and Denmark were the highest-ranked countries with 87.1, 85.5, and 84.87 points respectively.

The report checks legal and administrative rules and practices, as well as feedback from experts and businessmen from related fields and is designed to provide the best practice benchmarks that can be followed by developing countries.

“That ranking alone is enough to represent the country’s standings in terms of convenience for doing business. The 120th rank is not a desirable score for Iran.”

  Lack of Access to Authorities

A lack of direct access to and communication with the authorities is another barrier, said Naqavi.

“This is while access and communication with authorities or powerful institutions is one of the key indicators for sustainable development.” The NAWE tries to make that possible through putting women in touch with the right people and lobbying on behalf of entrepreneurs which is one of its mandates.

However, the government has been taking positive steps to ease the playing field.

“The new electronic and automated system of registration and proceedings has removed the excessive number of middlemen and with it the discrimination against women, and online deeds registration has eliminated the chances of rent-seeking,” she stressed.

Traditional Views and Proposed Solutions

Although times have changed and more women now are working alongside men, the traditional views persist, said Behnoush Bakhtari, a seasoned manager in the tile industry. “Altering that traditional view first demands cultural change.”

“Another point is that Iranian women are not really familiar with the labor laws, don’t know much about doing business, and have little information about major economic issues and, therefore, cannot lobby their proposals,” she underlined.

One way to rectify that is to introduce a course on economics, insurance, and banking at the high school, she opined.

Moradi believes certain laws should also be changed.

“At present, women need their husband’s permission to apply for a passport or to travel abroad,” she said. The pertinent article in the national law needs to be amended.

Naqavi added that the cumbersome regulations tied to granting loans should also be revised and gender biases removed.

The first Startup Weekend for Women was held in September 2013 in Tehran to help systematize female entrepreneurship and to share ideas and networking. The project was intended to encourage women and give them the momentum and support needed to get more active in the business environment.


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