The regime focuses only on unstable home-based businesses for Iranian women entrepreneurs
One of the criteria for evaluating countries in terms of development is women’s presence and participation in social and economic activities. The evaluation includes assessments with regard to the number of women entrepreneurs. In Iran, however, the number of Iranian women entrepreneurs are few.
The presence of women in major management and decision-making positions is zero. In November 2017, Massoumeh Ebtekar, presidential deputy for Women and Family Affairs, stated, “Women disappear in top management positions.” (The state-run Asr-e Iran website – October 31, 2017)
Conditions under which Iranian women entrepreneurs work
In Iran, women make up 50% of the population. However, the rate of economic participation among women over 15 years of age is 16.3%. The figure is 47.6% worldwide. (The state-run ISNA news agency – April 6, 2019)
In 2017, the unemployment rate for women was twice as high as that for men.
In the Spring of 2019, only one woman for every four men participated in economic activity, and this figure is becoming more catastrophic every year.
Unemployment of women with higher education
When examining unemployment statistics among women with higher education, it is apparent that at least one in every four women with university education in Iran is unemployed.
According to official statistics from the National Statistics Center of Iran, the unemployment rate for women with a master’s degree, doctorate, or higher is greater than the general unemployment rate among women.
Statistics gathered between 2008 and 2016 indicate a rapid rise in the unemployment rate for women who have postgraduate degrees or higher, from 12% to 26%. (The state-run Tabnak News Agency – July 11, 2017; the state-run women.gov.ir website – July 28, 2019)
In comparing the regime’s statistics of the unemployment rate published in the official news outlets, it becomes evident that the statistics lack transparency or reliability. According to state media outlets, in 2015, the unemployment rate among educated women was 85.9%. As evidenced by all news reports, the economic and employment situation have deteriorated since then.
If educated Iranian women find employment, they often do so in fields unrelated to their expertise, and in jobs that require much lower levels of education.
Participation in decision-making and policy-making
In Iran, more than anywhere else in the world, men make all decisions and set policy. Opposition to women’s employment, exclusionary employment policies, restrictive policies in selection of job and field of study, and the expectation of playing a purely gender-based, “feminine” role in the home, are among the factors pushing Iranian women back.
For example, according to the Rouhani government’s deceptive public statements, 30% of government management positions were to be given to women. In the final analysis, however, only a few women were elected to Parliament. Meanwhile, there is not a single female minister, and there are no women on the Guardian Council or the Expediency Council which are the highest decision-making authorities under the mullahs’ Supreme Leader.
The patriarchal ruling system always considers men to be more valuable than women. All the regime’s laws define breadwinners as men and give them priority over women in employment.
Obstacles vis-à-vis Iranian women entrepreneurs
Given these circumstances, it may appear incongruous to raise the issue of women entrepreneurs.
However, given that Iranian women never recognize limiting, misogynistic rules, it is enlightening to hear from the few Iranian women entrepreneurs who have managed to set up a business or open a factory.
According to several state-run media outlets, some of the biggest obstacles confronting Iranian women entrepreneurs include finding the appropriate financial resources, having access to reliable information, gaining the trust of banks and partners, and creating a balance between work and family obligations, especially since according to Iran’s civil code, men can prevent their wives from seeking employment.
Fatemeh Ghafouri, the head of the Businesswomen’s Association in Ghazvin, emphasized Iranian women’s limited access to financial recourses when she stated, “Financial institutions consider women as high-risk costumers, and therefore, they make limited resources available to women.”
Ghafouri also treats the issue of legal obstacles facing Iranian women entrepreneurs. She adds, “The lack of a husband’s or father’s approval to travel; the absence of tax and economic incentives and support; and ignorance about economics among some officials – all these are among the principal reasons that – despite women’s dignity and capabilities – no adequate measures have been taken over the past 40 years.” (The official IRNA News Agency – July 13, 2020)
Nasrin Yousefi, an entrepreneur and industrialist activist in Khorasan Province, says, “There are many disruptive laws with regard to women’s work. If a woman wants to start even a small workshop, legal obstacles will hinder her activity.” She adds, “A male who wants to be economically active can easily access information from his male colleagues about the market situation, government grants, and marketing. But women’s access to such networks that can show her the way is minimal.”
Yousefi goes on to say, “There are plenty of industrial counseling centers available to men. But women, who want to work in various sectors, do not have access to centers that could help them develop and implement their creative ideas.” (The official IRNA news agency – May 21, 2018)
Ghafouri, in her capacity as the head of the Businesswomen’s Association in Ghazvin, sheds light on the clerical regime’s approach to Iranian women entrepreneurs. She asserts, “Institutions set up for women focus only on family affairs. When these institutions consider economic activity, they only support home-based businesses. And those types of businesses are both unstable and cannot lead to favorable women’s empowerment.” (The official IRNA news agency – July 13, 2020)