Women Entrepreneurship in a Muslim Environment: The Case of Algeria

Women Entrepreneurship in a Muslim Environment: The Case of Algeria

Boufeldja Ghiat (University Oran 2 Mohamed Ben Ahmed, Algeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1802-1.ch008
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Environmental barriers and socio-cultural constraints in Algeria as in all the MENA Region have hindered women entrepreneurs but—without doubt—motivated them to meet the challenges through the adoption of some innovative managerial practices. The culture of a male society is the source of several socio-cultural problems of women entrepreneurs in Algeria. The purpose of the chapter is to point out the impact of local culture influenced by Islam on women entrepreneurship in Algeria and in MENA Region in general. A field research was carried out using a questionnaire to investigate the impact of local culture on managerial practices of women entrepreneurs. Data from a sample of 65 women entrepreneurs were analyzed and results were discussed: the psychological characteristics, their managerial competences, and the socio-cultural constraints they meet in the Algerian environment. The women's abilities to face the different socio-cultural obstacles are outlined.
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Entrepreneurship is the main feature of the modern organization and its development in the world economy. Women in developed countries are part of this development, and are widely studied. Despite the worldwide growth, women entrepreneurship is less common in the Middle East and North African countries (MENA), than other parts of the world (McIntosh and Islam, 2010, p. 3).

Despite the improvement of its economy, Algeria is experiencing a high rate of unemployment, including amongst young graduates. This motivated the state to adopt a policy of encouraging youth employment, by granting them loans, in order to create their own businesses. These factors have encouraged graduated women to venture into entrepreneurship businesses.

In order to lay down the bases for a modern economy and a healthy gender policy, Arab countries promoted access to education and training for girls, but the socio-cultural environment remains a difficult obstacle to overcome.

Algerian legislation regarding education and work, does not discriminate between genders. As mentioned by Nouara Ja'far, former Minister for the Family, “on the one hand, there is the law that puts men and women on an equal footing. On the other hand, the disparity between the genders is still raging on the ground, as a result of cultural mentality “(Belkhiri, 2012).

To be entrepreneur requires qualities of personality, management know-how and leadership abilities. That allows him to manage all aspects of production, competition and the management of relationships with the subordinates, as well as a confrontation with a multitude of material, financial, bureaucratic and human constraints.

Venturing into entrepreneurial activities involves several environmental challenges and constraints, which are not easy tasks even for men in a male society. That is why, few years ago, to see women as entrepreneurs in MENA Region was inconceivable in a male and conservative society.

Women entrepreneurs can be defined as those “who are not employed under an employment contract, but exert their activity either as self-employed or as a shareholder of a corporation. These women created alone or in partnership, all the risks and financial responsibilities, administrative and social development-related to these activities” (Cornet and Constantinidis, 2004). According to Belcourt et al. (1991), the she-entrepreneur is a “woman who seeks self-fulfillment, financial autonomy and control over her existence thanks to the launch and management of her own business”.

An entrepreneur can be either self-employed working in his - or her - own business, or an employer with at least one employee (Rachdi, 2006). This study focuses on companies with at least one employee, in order to study the behavior of women entrepreneurs in different managerial situations.

The literature shows a great similarity with respect to socio-cultural constraints of women entrepreneurs in the MENA Region (Middle East and North Africa), the fact of belonging to the same Arab-Muslim culture.

It is difficult to undertake entrepreneurship in an unhealthy cultural environment, and that has discouraged women. As they have challenges to face complex socio-cultural constraints, as this requires a lot of experience, skill, patience and managerial innovation (Ghiat, 2016).

The socio-cultural environment consists primarily of man created intangible elements which affect people’s actions, behavior, relationship, perception of the way of life, and their survival. Such elements include beliefs, values, attitudes and life styles of persons as developed from cultural, religious, educational and ethnic conditioning (Adeleke et al., 2003).

Essentially, people grow up within some cultural setting and social beliefs and values which define and shape the way and manner in which they live. In the context of entrepreneurship, the social-cultural environment can be defined as consisting of all the elements of the social system which positively or negatively affect and influence entrepreneurial emergence, behavior and performance, and entrepreneurship development in general (Akpor-Robaro, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Entrepreneurial Society: It is an entrepreneurship driven society where the institutional framework of systems and policies processes are focused on practicing entrepreneurial management for self-renewal.

Entrepreneurial Culture: It can be defined as the values, beliefs, attitudes and behavior of individuals within a society. These factors facilitate or obstruct the creation and management of enterprises and can be considered as the basic of a socio-cultural environment.

Socio-Cultural Environment: A set of beliefs, attitudes, and customs, affecting behaviors and practices that exist within a society.

Islamic Entrepreneurship Model: Islam advocates for hard work and positive attitudes towards others. That contributes in the creation of enterprises and in fostering healthy entrepreneurial environment built on moral and brotherhood.

Islamic Behavior: It is a behavior that adheres to values, modesty, discipline, honesty, morals and practices as stated in the Holy Quran and as practiced by the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Arab Women’s Traditional Roles: The traditional roles of Arab women are to stay at home, take care of their husbands and raise their children. They may perform some farming tasks with her family members or craft tasks within her home.

Male-Dominated Society: A social system in which men hold power and dominate roles in social, economic and political affairs. They feel superior and have power and influence over women in the society.

Islamic Entrepreneurship Environment: That is the cultural values associated with Islam, its values and practices of orders and forbids which participate in shaping individual’s attitudes and determine his/her behavior and relationships with others, with whom he/she deals within and outside his/ her enterprise.

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