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This article was published on November 27, 2009

Women, where’s your Facebook?

Women, where’s your Facebook?
Khaled AlSaleh
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Khaled AlSaleh

Khaled’s passion for tech started at a young age. He believes it may have been somewhere around the age of four when he first tried to elect Khaled’s passion for tech started at a young age. He believes it may have been somewhere around the age of four when he first tried to electrocute himself while putting the laws of physics to test, and the age of 6 when he received his first computer, a ZX Spectrum 16K/48K. Since then, he has developed a passion for all things digital and has been known to spend hours fiddling with toasters that have some intelligence in them. He still can’t make a sandwich though! To learn more about Khaled visit his LinkedIn profile at

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Almost a decade ago I worked on what, at the time, was called an eBusiness Strategy for a telecommunications company in the GCC, and one of the our most exciting findings was the potential the web had on integrating women into the workforce in some of the more conservative societies.

Our findings, while interesting, never did match the reality on the ground. That’s not to say that there aren’t female entrepreneurs in the region. In fact a member of the founding team at Bayt, one of the most successful start-ups in the region, was a Saudi woman.

Recently, however, I sat through a presentation about social media usage in the Middle East that led me to believe that this may soon change. We were presented with a statistic on the gender split of registered Facebook users in the GCC which showed that females outnumbered males.

I was so excited that when I got home I Googled and identified the source of those numbers. It was a study conducted by TechCrunch in 2007. A little dated, but how much could things have changed?

A lot, as it turns out!

In 2007, there were 317,400 registered Facebook users in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Of those, 62% were female and 39% were male. Now this is actually in line with most other regions around the world, but it was still pretty interesting to see that it was the GCC wasn’t so different.

Facebook Usage

By 2009 the number of users had grown to 2.2 Million in those countries. This further affirms the spectacular growth of Facebook in the region, but what was even more interesting was the change in the demographics of registered users!

I extracted data from Facebook’s Advertising platform and it shows that the ratio of men to women is now almost 64% male to 36% female, so a complete reversal from two years ago.

What is interesting, though is that this is absolutely in line with the gender split of Internet users in the GCC, where 62% of users are male while 38% are female.

Now, I don’t know whether or not this has an impact on the demographics of Internet entrepreneurs in the region. I know of some start-ups in the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region that target a female only audience, but those tend to be run by men.

So here is a request to our readers: We’d like to feature some start-ups that have been established or are led by female entrepreneurs in the region. If you, or anyone you know, would like to be featured please feel free to drop me an email on [email protected].

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