CMU inclusive teaching fellowship explores women and digital entrepreneurship
Nui Vatanasakdakul has completed the yearlong Provost’s Inclusive Teaching Fellowship (PITF), having adapted the course, E-business and Design Thinking, to explore how the Qatar culture affects male and female entrepreneurs. Vatanasakdakul is an associate teaching professor of information systems at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university.
Vatanasakdakul notes that in the Middle Eastern context, female entrepreneurs face different challenges than their male counterparts. “While the topic of women in social commerce has been well-studied, we know less about how the social and business climates in the Middle East affect female entrepreneurs.”
During the course, students explored the factors that help and hinder women in the social commerce domain. For the final project, students set up their own social commerce business, and then used this experience to reflect on diversity and gender in entrepreneurship.
Information systems senior Muneera AlBaker took the course and created the social commerce business The Tote as her final project. The Tote sells designed, custom tote bags through Instagram.
Reflecting on the course, AlBaker appreciated a nuanced exploration of women in business in Qatar. “When we discussed the challenges that female entrepreneurs face in Qatar, we tried to understand the root of those challenges and that was very helpful in finding solutions.”
“The most important thing that I have learned is how to manage my own business, including marketing, finances, and operations. I developed a strong belief that women are capable of doing everything when it comes to social commerce.”
Another student created the social commerce business Catalog, a Qatari-based brand offering high quality, uniquely designed abayas.
For her, the course was an opportunity to discuss some of the challenges that face Qatari women in entrepreneurship.
“Our class discussion included topics like how Qatari women prefer keeping our identity private, and are hesitant to communicate with male customers. The class broadened my understanding of these issues.”
Noora Al-Saadi started an Instagram dessert business called Swirline with her classmate Sharoq Darwish.
“The course just showed me, and proved further, how women are creative and can be successful in social commerce,” said Al-Saadi. “I did not just learn from the positive side of running a business online, but also from the challenges.”
Sponsored by James H. Garrett, Jr., the provost of Carnegie Mellon University, and administered by the Eberly Center, the Provost’s Inclusive Teaching Fellowship supports faculty members as they incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their courses.