South Africa has low female entrepreneurial activity with female entrepreneurs accounting for only 31% of all entrepreneurs in the country. Furthermore, data from the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for South Africa shows that the ratio of women involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity in 2017 compared to that of their male counterparts, was at 0.69 – a concerning but negligible 0.05 decline since 2016.
Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS says that the low female entrepreneurial activity is a worrisome statistic, as the country’s economy begs for growing levels of entrepreneurship across the board.
Speaking in light of Women’s Month this August, Mjadu says that there needs to be a widespread culture shift when it comes to entrepreneurship in South Africa. “In addition to boosting overall levels of entrepreneurship, greater focus must be placed on encouraging more women to enter this career path.
“No longer should entrepreneurship be a means to an end; it should become a career aspiration that young children, and girls in particular, dream of,” says Mjadu. “Imagine if our young girls dreamt of becoming entrepreneurs in the same way that they dream of becoming doctors, lawyers or astronauts.”
Mjadu says that taking a leaf from the 16-year success of the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work campaign – the private sector should heed the call to establish similar initiatives – with the aim of teaching young girls the business of entrepreneurship from an early age. Owners of small businesses could also use the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work campaign to host young girls and thus expose them to the world of entrepreneurship.
A starting point, Mjadu suggests, would be to include basic entrepreneurial education (like idea generation, the basics of business plan writing, financial literacy, marketing and customer service to name a few key principles) at primary-school levels and continuing throughout the school years into tertiary studies.
In agreement, is Phillipa Geard, owner and founder of Recruitmymom.co.za and finalist in the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS: “Empowering young girls to be entrepreneurs is vital in a country like South Africa where the formal economy cannot absorb the current amount of available labour. To teach young people about becoming job creators, rather than seekers, is a necessary mind-shift for so many,” she says.
Geard adds that being a woman entrepreneur is also a powerful tool in forging one’s own destiny. “Not only does entrepreneurship allow a woman to become financially independent, it allows her the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of others through job creation and social development. This can have a profound impact on self-confidence, self-worth and helping to build a healthy society.”
Mjadu adds that having female entrepreneur role models in the home can also contribute to increasing entrepreneurial activity in South Africa for both girl and boy children, as children generally look up to their parents for role modelling. “Supporting this in part is research from Girlguiding UK that reveals that girls looked up to their mothers for career aspirations,” she says.
Geard adds that teaching young girls that being an entrepreneur is feasible, exciting, and a real possibility, can change the way they think about their futures and their role in society.
“This in itself has a profound impact on the type of women we raise as South Africans – a woman who is fearless, confident and passionate about growing our country.”
Two more of this year’s competition finalists – Beverly Gumbi of Isivuno Containers and Christine Geldart of Marven Equipment – both share in these sentiments.
As successful women entrepreneurs, Gumbi and Geldart, like Geard, believe that entrepreneurship creates opportunities for South African women to empower others – be it through job creation, acting as business role-models and mentors, or providing education opportunities like internships and apprenticeships. This, they believe, is essential for bringing about broader economic progress in South Africa.