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Women still have a funding problem: The unique challenges of being a woman entrepreneur

Sophie Doireau, the CEO of Cartier Middle East, India, Africa and Turkey, sheds light on the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs

Women still have a funding problem: The unique challenges of being a woman entrepreneur
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

“I love thinking that we have our heads in the clouds and feet on the ground,” says Sophie Doireau, the visionary CEO of Cartier Middle East, India, Africa and Turkey, as we catch up over a cup of coffee at its newly opened office located in DIFC.

Given her decade-long work and understanding of the challenges facing women entrepreneurs, Doireau says her biggest achievement is being instrumental in opening opportunities for women worldwide through the Cartier Women’s Initiative. It’s a global entrepreneurship program that aims to drive change by encouraging women who leverage their businesses as a force for good.


Although women represent one-third of all businesses, a staggering statistic highlighting their immense contribution to the global economy, she emphasizes that regardless of geographical location, women encounter similar challenges.

“Access to funding is a major hurdle,” she says. “In the US alone, women receive a mere 2% of venture capital funding; a disparity sadly mirrored in many other countries.”

Networking is another obstacle for women entrepreneurs, often constrained by limited time due to additional responsibilities. “Sometimes, women find it challenging to balance running a business or being present at a company with their responsibilities at home. This, coupled with a lack of confidence and imposter syndrome, hinders their progress,” Doireau adds. 

Recognizing these shared struggles, Doireau says the women’s initiative is curated to bolster how women perceive themselves, inspiring confidence and resilience.

The program aims to support women entrepreneurs who have businesses that positively impact the world, whether in education, healthcare, or food. “With over $7 million granted and over 300 women participants, the initiative has provided invaluable support and resources to women trailblazers globally.”


Reflecting on her journey, Doireau recalls joining Cartier 15 years ago and instantly falling in love with Maison’s mission. “Jewelry can have a real impact,” she says. “We strive not just to talk the talk but walk the walk. We are dedicated to fostering a world where women can thrive, where their entrepreneurial spirit knows no bounds.”

To Doireau, women need to model themselves if they are to run an organization with impact. Talking about her leadership style, she says, “I’m aware of the immense responsibility of representing such an impactful organization; I’m the ambassador of change and must fashion my life in a way my team can follow. This means work-life balance and staying true to who I am. I am the same Sophie at home and work. And I’m grateful for the incredible team behind me, and I look forward to showing up at work daily and tackling whatever it may be with them.”

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More