Women’s Month in South Africa is celebrated in August, in commemoration of the thousands of women of all races who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 in protest against Pass Laws for women. The South African government has entitled this year’s Women’s Month theme, “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future,” in solidarity with countries around the world who aim to achieve gender equality by 2030.
Gender equality in the realm of business is something financiers and everyday South Africans should continue to get behind by supporting female entrepreneurs. We have come a long way – according to the latest Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), South Africa ranks as the number one destination on the continent where female entrepreneurs can capitalize on opportunities that are supported in various ways within their local communities. There are four key reasons why supporting female entrepreneurship is particularly important within the South African context.
Women are easier to finance
One of the biggest challenges that female entrepreneurs are faced with in South Africa is access to finance. However, studies show that women manage their credit better than men and are therefore easier and more reliable to finance. Our team at Business Partners Limited is focused on tackling the issue of gender inequality in entrepreneurship and we set targets for our teams for financing female-owned businesses and we aim increase these targets every year. It is our experience – as well as that of a number of other financial institutions – that women are more likely to maintain good credit with lenders, and now is as good a time as any to leverage and reward their inherent reliability.
Women entrepreneurs prioritise job creation
According to the Lionesses of Africa’s most recent South African Women Entrepreneurs Job Creators Survey, job creation is a key motivation for female entrepreneurs. Of the 913 women who participated in the study, 90% claimed that creating employment was a “very important” consideration that was made when starting their businesses. As the results of the survey showed, the average female entrepreneur employs five staff members, while the top 1% have a thousand or more employees. Women prioritise job creation not only for themselves but for their family, friends and their wider communities. With unemployment (particularly among the youth) being at a record high, female entrepreneurs could be the key to unlocking more sustainable employment opportunities.
In the words of philanthropist, author, medical doctor, mother and entrepreneur, Dr Judy Dlamini: “Equality isn’t “simply a favour towards women” but it makes economic sense.”
The vital role played by female role models
Some great examples of role models have emerged within the last decade; inspiring women who demonstrate financial literacy and who see the value of mentoring young girls. Mapalo Makhu comes to mind – personal finance coach, public speaker, columnist, and entrepreneur. Her most recent book, “You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich,” is a prime example of the level of financial advice that young people need. Makhu is just one example of a female role model who believes that women can, and should, take charge of their finances as part of empowering themselves. Her example is certainly one to follow and – along with a number of other influential names in the industry – female entrepreneurs are becoming positive archetypes for the kind of business savvy women that this country is capable of producing.
Women continue to demonstrate tenacity
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate effect on the financial wellbeing of women business owners, who often play dual roles as entrepreneurs in addition to being the traditional caregivers of children and the elderly. The latest MIWE reported that in South Africa, just under 60% of women work in the sectors that were the hardest hit by the economic effects of the pandemic, namely: retail, food shops and domestic services. Despite these challenges, women have proven tenacious in their ability to adapt and innovate. For example, having observed the exponential spike in e-commerce since the onset of the pandemic, many women are now capitalizing on this trend, finding inventive ways of selling products and services online.