Opportunities ripe for female entrepreneurs to shatter glass ceiling

The entrepreneurial gender gap is slowly closing in many countries, and in these countries women as likely as men to start a small business. In hot pursuit of such gender parity is South Africa, where seven women are engaged in early-stage entrepreneurship for every ten male entrepreneurs, according to the recently released 2016/2017 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

Speaking in light of National Women’s Month, Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that it is important for both the public and private sectors to band together in order to create an environment where women entrepreneurs feel well-supported in terms of business growth and development. “According to some of the top female entrepreneurs in South Africa, and finalists of the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, although there are highly capable and talented female entrepreneurs in the country, the landscape could be more conducive,” she says.

These female leaders offer their insights into how women entrepreneurship can be better supported in South Africa:

Nelisiwe Magubane, chairperson of Matleng Energy, says that the current economic downturn is presenting a number of opportunities and realisations that more women need to be job creators rather than job seekers. However, in order to truly realise this potential and assist female entrepreneurs to flourish, the utilisation of preferential policies as well as the prioritisation of female entrepreneurship should be maximised.

Echoing this sentiment is Refilwe Marumo, director of Mighty Comms, who says that the opportunities for female entrepreneurs in South Africa are slowly improving, thanks to the latest Preferential Procurement Policy which includes the proposed new Preferential Procurement Regulations, an introduction of a compulsory sub-contracting clause stating that a minimum of 30% of the value of all contracts above R 30 million should be undertaken by SMMEs, women, youth, black persons or persons with disabilities.  

“In light of this, the ‘big’ companies in need of subcontractors are expected to make use of a lot more women owned businesses. However, even with these sorts of measures in place, it really is up to women to market their businesses effectively,” continues Refilwe.

Lindy Scott, Managing & Creative Director of Conceptual Eyes says that although entrepreneurship is seen as high risk to many, in an emerging and dynamic market like South Africa, opportunity is everywhere.  “The market is equally diverse and women should not be scared to work in traditionally male industries; if your service or product adds value – be brave and go for it,” she adds.

“There is no doubt that the number of women entrepreneurs in South Africa is on the rise, despite an unlevelled battle ground,” agrees Ouma Tema founder of Plus-Fab. “South Africa is slowly but surely embracing the new era of women in leadership, and it is imperative for these leaders to be female role models in order for younger women to see the possibility of translating their entrepreneurial aspirations into reality.”

Mjadu points out that the recently released Sage report – The Hidden Factors: Fostering Entrepreneurship – revealed that 56% of women agreed that being an entrepreneur is a lonely endeavour which lacks support, and that only 14% of women have a business mentor or role model. “Whilst female entrepreneurship is on the increase in South Africa, it is crucial for female entrepreneurs to speak out against the impediments to their development and learn from each other in order to promote entrepreneurship amongst women in South Africa even further,” she adds.

To get the ball rolling, the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® finalists provide the following tips for aspiring female entrepreneurs to consider:

  • Maximise networks: This is a great way for entrepreneurs to further extend their knowledge within their field, as well draw support and inspiration from likeminded individuals. 
  • Learn from mistakes: The path to success will be full of failures, however entrepreneurs should not let this deter them from their goals. Instead, use these failures as lessons and stepping stones to success.
  • Persevere: Although entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, don’t lose sight of why you started. Remember, that in the end, the reward will be worth the risk.