Fatemeh Daneshvar: an Iranian tycoon breaking gender stereotypes

Tehran: Fatemeh Daneshvar 43, runs seven major businesses to her name. She pursued a successful career in the male-dominated mining industry. Besides serving on Tehran’s city council and the Iranian chamber of commerce, she has authored dozens of reports on the social problems plaguing Iran, from addiction to child labour.

She runs charity institution Mehrafarin, to which she donates one-fourth of her income. Her charitable organisation supports women and children whose fathers have abandoned them. But of all that Daneshvar has achieved over the years, she is proudest of her work with Iran’s street kids. She runs a programme to train and support dozens of exceptional orphans, giving them a chance to succeed in the broader community.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Daneshvar revealed that she has done all this while raising four young children alongside her husband and business partner. She admits that it was not a smooth journey though. She battled the resistance from traditionalist members of Iran’s business community.

Fatemeh Daneshvar did MA in business management and later decided to do business on her own. Though she was single at the time, but it wasn’t quite something normal in Iranian culture, which according to her was male-dominated in the business field – especially in mining and importing/exporting.

She entered the mining industry sector and started exporting mining materials to different countries. Her business took off and she got a lot of attention as the only woman active in this field. She realised that she possessed distinctive qualities like self-confidence, risk-taking and audacity.

Interestingly she struck the first business deal of $2m while possessing just $200, solely through the art of negotiations.

She signed up as the only female member of the business chamber of Iran. She was made fun of by the senior members who teased her that she should leave. She recalled that she was pregnant at the time with twins and was very busy, still in the election of the chamber, she got the second-highest vote.

She revealed that she received a lot of calls from male members of the chamber asking her to resign as they could not accept a woman presiding over them. She admits ‘I sometimes got very tired and fed up with these kinds of calls, but I thought if I do resign, it’s a kind of betrayal to the women in our society.’

Instead, she made way for others and there are currently three other women chairing specialised committees.

She says that West has a huge misconception about women in Iran but during her visits to different countries, she realised that Iranian women are extremely highly educated and enjoy many more freedoms than in some of these other countries.

Speaking about her husband’s contribution in her success she says her husband has been a great partner, especially for raising children. She feels having a supportive partner is a key to success,.

Speaking about the social crimes afflicting Iran, she pointed out that addiction and unemployment are the root causes of many of the problems. Talking about family problems, she mentioned divorce which results in many issues

Advising women and girls who want to follow her footsteps she says, the number one enemy is fear. Do not be scared, no matter what. And always think about yourself – set goals and objectives for yourself. Try to know thyself first. I fear nothing but God. That’s why I always take risks and do things that many people do not do, she asserted.