To observe Women’s Equality Day (26 August), Quickbooks South Africa encourages women to be more involved in business and how they can significantly contribute to the economy.
According to reports from the World Bank, Africa is among one of the highest regions for female entrepreneurs in the world at 27 per cent, followed closely by Europe at 24 per cent, and Asia Pacific at 13 per cent. However, at the bottom of the continent, South African women remain in the minority for female business leaders. “Over half of the South African population is women, yet only 18.8 per cent of businesses are owned by women, unaligned with the global rates,” said Lucy Desai, a content writer for Quickbooks South Africa.
“Firstly, an exploration into women in business in Africa found that most women and young people in South Africa are unemployed and living in poverty, therefore some are compelled into choosing business as their career, forcing them to become self-employed in microenterprise projects such as chicken farming or sewing,” Desai explained what causes the gender gap.
“Secondly, research has found that women struggle to gain funding from banks for their business ideas, with the financing gap for women in Sub-Saharan Africa being more than billion,” she continued.
According to Desai, a huge number of South African women underestimate their abilities due to the way they’ve been socialised about attitudes to gender. “Through bias in education and societal expectations, women haven’t been raised to be leaders, are often perceived negatively when assertive, and have internalised low confidence and fear of failure. South Africa is home to the biggest gender gap in regard to favourable media coverage, which is highly influential over opinions and perceptions of entrepreneurship.”
Desai said when women are successful in business, it drives economic growth. A study by Development Economics forecasted that female-owned businesses in South Africa could help yield over R175 billion a year for the economy in 2022 while simultaneously providing 972 000 jobs. It’s becoming important for successful women to be able to tell their story to give budding entrepreneurs someone to look up to and aspire to be like, particularly in male-dominated sectors, through education reform. “Education reform has been effective in encouraging girls in UK schools to pursue STEM-related subjects, with A-level material including successful women in the industry, which was linked to 2019’s influx of female students. Is this something South Africa needs?”
Desai has provided initiatives that have been created to encourage female business owners and the economic advancement of women in developing countries.
- Deloitte Women’s Mentorship Programme helps women break down barriers by hosting events, attracting and retaining talented women, while providing a platform for likeminded women to connect and seek advice and further mentoring, the more women in business, the less discrimination.
- Similarly, the Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF) is a government fund aimed at driving women’s economic empowerment with finance, helping improve the success of a business, R400 million has been used to help women in business.
“In a challenging economic landscape, it’s important to help create jobs and support each other in our goals, striving for gender equality is an important stepping stone,” she concluded.