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Female investors and the power of the ‘invisible market’

Women are diversifying and growing their investments in the region

Female investors Shutterstock/Yuriy Golub
Female investors are often drawn to real estate and women make up more than a third of brokers registered in Dubai

The Mena’s female investors are growing in number and spreading their investments more widely across a wide range of sectors.

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange recently shared some interesting insights about women’s investments on the exchange: specifically, almost nine in ten – or 219,000 – of all women trading on the exchange are Emirati.

This female investment shift was predicted in a book first published in 2009: Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market.

This publication was based on the findings of a study by Boston Consulting Group that polled 12,000 women in 21 countries. The report’s authors described an “invisible market” that has since grown in size, influence and buying power.

Sensible companies will pay attention to this valuable investment demographic. 

Real estate – a shining example

According to Dubai government data the number of women investing in real estate in 2022 increased by almost 51 percent over the previous year.

The UAE property market continues to evolve and cater to the needs of female investors, so it is not surprising that more women are taking an active role investing into this sector.

Last year, AGBI covered the launch of Baytuki, a crowdfunding platform launched by Emirati social entrepreneur Latifa Bin Haider. Her aim was to enable Emirati women of all ages and income brackets to secure financial prosperity by making micro-investments in real estate. 

What’s more, women have a wider role to play within the real estate industry. They contribute to the industry as builders, brokers and employees. According to Dubai Land Department data, women made up 34.8 percent of registered real estate brokers in 2022.

Latifa Bin Haider, founder of Baytuki, a crowdfunding platform for women real estate investors
Striking a balance

Women are more likely to describe their current investment mix as a balance of growth and preservation.

Across the Mena region female investors are making deliberate choices, reflecting both their desire to grow a healthy portfolio and also aligning with their values.

They prefer to invest in companies with positive social or environmental impact, for example. This is a positive trend that can drive greater diversity and innovation within the investment industry. 

Financial institutions, funds and angel networks focus on facilitating women’s investment journeys to take advantage of the full potential of impact investing. 

With Cop28 around the corner, topics such as climate tech funding will be important to both male and female stakeholders.

Normalising discussions about wealth

Historically women in the UAE and globally have faced several barriers to investing, such as a lack of access to financial information and products.

These barriers have been and are being removed, and Middle East wealth managers are endeavouring to personalise their approaches to meet the specific needs and priorities of individual clients, regardless of gender.

However organisations such as 2022 Female Angels acknowledge that only 15 percent of angel investors are women.

Their mission is to diversify the early-stage investment landscape in Mena by identifying 2,022 female angels who have an appetite for the region.

The focus is on providing education via workshops and pitch nights. And, very importantly, encouraging potential angels to speak, network and meet with existing angels and to talk openly about how to make money.

These activities are normalising the fact that women should talk about our gains and losses and provide relevant investing advice to each other.

More women in finance

On the back of several legislative reforms related to economic participation, the UAE has topped the Mena region rankings on women’s equality initiatives, according to a World Bank report.

Investment funds are also now being intentional about ensuring gender diversity throughout the entire team, including management and the board of directors. Multiple empirical studies have noted that gender-diverse portfolio companies outperform in every aspect, whether it be in innovation or operational efficiency. 

Ultimately, it is diverse companies that contribute to a higher incremental return for investors. Female fund managers take less risk during periods of negative market sentiment. 

And as women investors prefer to put their money into “safer” products, it should naturally play out that well performing funds would be their preference.
All the signs are trending in a positive direction.

Women Want More was written in 2009, and we are now seeing the power of the “invisible market” reveal itself in 2023.

Lucy Chow is secretary general of the Dubai-based World Business Angels Investment Forum and general partner of the WBAF Angel Investment Fund

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