Female-run enterprises are steadily growing all over the world, contributing to household incomes and the growth of national economies. However, women face time, human, physical, and social constraints that limit their ability to grow their businesses.
But in the beginning, we first need to clarify what we mean by women entrepreneurs, as this subject has only recently come to light, especially with the pandemic, although women entrepreneurs have been around forever.
Women entrepreneurs may be defined as the women or a group of women who initiate, organise and operate a business enterprise. Women are expected to innovate, imitate, or adopt an economic activity to be called women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneur refers equally to someone who has started a women business to someone who is a principal in a family business or partnership or to someone who is a shareholder in a public company which is run by a woman. The World Bank studies show that women entrepreneurs make significant contributions to economic growth and poverty reduction, creating new jobs for themselves and others. Gender equality across every aspect of society is a fundamental human right and essential for our societies to be safe, prosperous and to thrive.
While the number of women operating their businesses is increasing globally, historically, the predominance of male-led enterprises created an unfavourable environment for women who wished to undertake or occupy leadership positions. Despite a major difficulty in examining and measuring entrepreneurship due to the blurred boundaries separating it from self-employment, the literature shows that women still face a great number of difficulties and obstacles in establishing and running businesses.
These include access to finance, unfavourable business regulations, cultural barriers, choice of business types and sectors, information and training gaps, lack of contacts and access to social support and networking, education and occupational segregation and competing demands on time (double burden of home and work responsibilities).
The biggest obstacle to funding and growing any business is access to capital. Despite evidence that women tend to have better repayment records than men, they face higher barriers in this regard. Men and women also have different styles of “pitching” for funds. Women too often lack the knowledge and confidence to ask for large enough sums and to negotiate well on terms. On the other side, investors, who are often men assume women entrepreneurs are operating just like men and increasing their numbers. Therefore, they will provide funding at lower levels than requested.
Public policies that foster women entrepreneurs are key to increasing their numbers and contributing to their success. Such policies require frameworks that can provide pathways for women to start and grow businesses, and to support gender equality more generally. Legal frameworks should not raise barriers for women; rather, employment, education, taxation, and finance policies should foster women’s business initiatives. Social policies including flextime, parental leave and access to affordable childcare are essential for many women who embark as entrepreneurs.
Encouraging entrepreneurship is essential for several reasons, the main one being the elimination of gender inequality and the generation of equal opportunities between men and women – given that leadership skills and competencies do not depend on this factor.
The development of female entrepreneurship is not only important for society and the economical market but also extremely beneficial because by reducing gender gaps, when women entrepreneurs succeed, they’re more likely to invest back into their families and community – into education, nutrition, wellbeing, and children’s health. Moreover, their businesses are more likely to provide necessary services and opportunities to their communities.
In the end, we need to mention that we all together need to work towards the 5th UN Sustainable Development Goal: Achieving Gender equality and empowering all women and girls. As the women entrepreneurs of today are creating a better tomorrow for everyone. And our future must be equal.