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Promoting entrepreneurship to empower women

Standing up for the Sisterhood: - Noor is promoting entrepreneurship, and women empowerment, across personal, social and economic levels

Boosting female representation in the Jordanian economy/labour market is Noor Abu-Jbara’s mission. The problem lies not in access to education, the 29-year-old entrepreneur points out. But instead in increasing female participation and leadership in the face of cultural and social constraints.

After graduating from MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Noor became the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Supervisor at TheTank by Umniah and the Founder of SHEE in her native Jordan. She is trainer and mentor for start-ups and has worked as a consultant and researcher in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship, women empowerment and management consultation.

Prestigious award winner

Noor is the winner of a Study UK Alumni Award in Jordan, in the Business and Innovation category. The UK Alumni Awards are hosted by The British Council, and the winners have been selected for their outstanding achievements as entrepreneurs, community and education leaders, and their contributions to boost cooperation between their country and the UK. The Business and Innovation Award category specifically recognises those who are active in initiating and contributing to innovative or creative new ideas, solutions or business opportunities, that have the potential for growth.

"Everyone needs empowerment – and women perhaps more (than men) because they encounter more challenges"

“Women empowerment is not about fighting against men or asking for pure equal opportunities between men and women, it is about supporting women and giving them needed skills to be self-empowered and economic independent” says Noor, a WMG MSc graduate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. ‘We need to enhance the eco-system in order to reach a balanced society where women and men are part of any social or economical development. I do believe that we empower women when we help them to be self empowered, through enhancing their self confidence and self valuation.’

It is an area that Noor is intent on changing so that women have the opportunity to realise their full potential. Like she is doing as a result of her studies at WMG.

Describe your work

A trainer, mentor and researcher in female empowerment, innovation and entrepreneurship fields. I support women, youth and startups in Jordan to start and build their own businesses. More recently, I’ve begun running a business incubator helping start-up firms grow, and connecting them with investors and expertise.

Who has inspired you most?

During my study, I was inspired by my parents first of all, and my WMG project supervisor who recognised my potential. He pushed me to achieve ‘outstanding’ in my dissertation degree, and to get my research published at conferences. His encouragement was amazing. Also, being a Said Foundation scholar was an inspiration and motivation to me to do my best during the year.

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What part did your course play in your achievements?

Before, I was someone who only took secure steps, but WMG made me realise life isn’t a straight line. Sometimes we have to take decisions that involve uncertainty. I’d taken unpaid leave to do the course. When I returned to Jordan, I decided to take a risk, resign from my job, and go freelance. That’s led me to my new job, career path and opened up new opportunities.

My dissertation allowed me to publish two conference papers in women empowerment measurement and social entrepreneurship fields. Also, I am a member in the papers reviewers committee at the Academic Publishing International Conferences. The course and modules allowed me to work in and secure several projects related to innovation and entrepreneurship with international NGOs in Jordan, focusing on youth and women empowerment. Additionally, my dissertation allowed me to build a business idea for women empowerment “SHEE” which I am currently working towards launching. I became a certified springboard trainer in women empowerment after graduation. The course giving me the exposure I needed to work on an international level - building international connections, and involved in international projects and conferences.

What skills gained at WMG are useful in business?

To not accept anything at face value – to question everything. The course changed my mindset and how I think about challenges and opportunities. It also taught me how to be flexible and adapt with any change. My dissertation was on designing a business idea to encourage Jordanian women to become entrepreneurs and I went on to publish a conference paper regarding women empowerment measurement. The United States Agency for International Development hired me as a result of this work, writing and publishing an impact assessment report for one of their women economic empowerment programs “Informal Savings and Lending Group” which measured the level of empowerment of women beneficiaries across Jordan.

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The Master's year taught me to be committed, determined and self-confident, always seeking out new opportunities. It gave me the entrepreneurial skills that allowed me to be flexible, a risk taker and work within uncertainties.

What’s your advice to students taking the course?

Get involved to the maximum while maintaining a work-life balance. I’m reaping the benefits now from the hard work I did in that year. Use the time to learn about yourself. Deadline pressures focus your mind to identify your true passion. Focus on your dissertation as it is will create your specialty in the area you are studying. Enjoy your time and do not be harsh to yourself. Build good relationships with your tutors and professors, connect with businesses, incubators, accelerators and attend entrepreneurship events across the UK.