Female Entrepreneurs: Their hidden potential and how to help unlock it – Tahira Moosa
Female entrepreneurship is on the rise globally, which is great for countries like South Africa where it has been proven to be a major catalyst in triggering economic growth. UN Women found that when females have a higher income there is often a correlation with improved health, education and child nutrition. The benefits of successful women were further explored by the International Finance Corporation who found that companies with gender-diverse boards have a better return on equity, share price and growth rate. Despite the countless benefits of uplifting female entrepreneurs, women are still in the minority when looking at the South African entrepreneurial landscape. This could partially be due to the fact that although Africa as a whole boasts the highest growth rate of female run businesses in the world, locally the majority of the opportunities available in the market are for male and youth-owned businesses. Female entrepreneurs also face a unique series of hurdles their male counterparts have the advantage of avoiding when starting and running their businesses. Some of these challenges include:
Juggling competing priorities such as societal expectations, family and domestic responsibilities
Skills gaps partially due to lower primary school enrolment and completion by women
Legal constraints such as a lack of property rights which hinders the ability to borrow money
Difficulty getting funding
Insufficient networking opportunities as a result of fewer female business-orientated networks and a lack of suitable mentors/advisors for females
A culturally stimulated lack of assertiveness and confidence in their abilities when compared to male counterparts
Greater anxiety and concern about the lethargic economy, and
Undervaluation of the abilities of women
Regardless of the many hurdles facing female entrepreneurs, it is important that they are not discouraged and persevere in the face of adversity. Most entrepreneurs have faced different forms of misfortune at one point or another in their career, but the ability persist and harness that failure as a learning experience is what builds the foundation for success. Women possess great potential if they have the confidence to speak up. Although it may be challenging to not be intimidated by the male counterparts, if women can stand their ground and support their ideas with sound evidence they will be able to effectively persuade any audience and shift the narrative by displaying their worth. Women need to show up and strive to actively participate in meetings and discussions. By drawing on the innate strengths they possess such as emotional maturity and real-life strategizing experience, women can think outside the male dominated status quo. They are able provide a fresh, new perspective to many situations. These strengths, if utilized correctly and confidently, can add an immense amount of value to any business.
What are some things that can be done to help uplift female entrepreneurs?
Do some research and support female owned/run businesses in any way possible
Utilize the networks and organisations available to uplift female entrepreneurs and introduce them to opportunities they may not be aware of
Hold yourself personally accountable for removing the barriers faced by females when you are exposed to them
Choose something that costs you little/nothing to give up and pass on that opportunity to a female entrepreneur
Step up and help other women raise the bar by sharing business knowledge
Volunteer and mentor the next generation of female entrepreneurs
Encourage women to share their opinions and assist in building the confidence of young female voices
Create an internship program that provides learning opportunities for women and minorities, and
Donate your time, money or gently used goods to organizations that empower disadvantaged women to re-join the workforce
Regardless of the hurdles and hesitation others might show along the way, it is vital for women to believe in themselves and fight the historical belief systems about women in the workplace. If they believe in themselves and their own capabilities, they can overcome the obstacles blocking their way. Ultimately, they need to remember that being a woman entrepreneur and overcoming adversity sets them aside from their male counterparts and sets them up to be far more resilient and formidable.
Here at RIIS we are fortunate enough to be a highly diverse team with access to excellent female mentors and colleagues. If we continue to share the wealth of knowledge throughout our organization and extend it beyond those of us privileged enough to work here, we can continue to uplift female entrepreneurs out there.