The first South African Women Entrepreneurs Job Creators Survey report releases today, providing key insights into the pivotal role women entrepreneurs play as job creators. Top line findings from the report indicate a deep commitment to job creation among South Africa’s women entrepreneurs, with 90% reporting that job creation was an important consideration in starting their business.
In addition, despite all the challenges and setbacks of the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey reveals ‘green shoots’ of optimism in terms of future job creation. The majority of respondents anticipate that their businesses will recover from the impact of COVID-19 within two years; they anticipate growth in revenues and are either actively recruiting new staff now or planning for new, near-term hires.
The survey was undertaken by Lionesses of Africa, a network of over 1.3 million women entrepreneurs across the African continent, together with New York University, and supported by Absa.
Who Participated in the Survey
The South African Women Entrepreneurs Job Creators Survey data was collected online from 913 women entrepreneurs in South Africa between November 23, 2020, and April 28, 2021, and informed by a further 150 qualitative interviews of women entrepreneurs during the same period.
Participants were recruited through the Lionesses of Africa network, to represent a wide range of business types, sizes and sectors. The survey was an opportunity for South Africa’s women entrepreneurs to share their experiences with job creation and how COVID-19 affected it and revenue generation. Respondents also shared their post-COVID-19 outlook for their businesses and their experiences with accessing government assistance programs and external financing during the pandemic.
What the Data Reveals
The survey provides valuable insights into both solo entrepreneurs who are creating jobs for themselves and those entrepreneurs with employees.
The employing women entrepreneurs who participated have on average, 29 employees, whereas the ‘typical’ or median entrepreneur employed five staff, while the top 1% had a thousand or more employees. The majority of companies with employees hired their first employee early in the life of their business, 67% within the first year.
This would indicate that women entrepreneurs are not only creating jobs but are doing so in the very early stage of their company’s life cycle.
Future hiring plans
In terms of future hiring plans, among the entrepreneurs who employ staff, over a third considered current staffing levels to be inadequate for their needs and 41% were actively recruiting. Of those who were hiring, 73% reported that they were hiring to help meet demand, 12% to bring additional skills into the business, and 12% were hiring, or rehiring, to replace employees who had left or were let go.
Speaking about the report findings, Lionesses of Africa founder, Melanie Hawken, said:
“What is encouraging about our survey findings is that there is real self-belief on the part of women entrepreneurs in their ability to create jobs, and that remains one of the key drivers of their motivation to build sustainable businesses. Women entrepreneurs have job creation in their DNA. Another stand-out finding from the report was how these women fought to protect jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than two-thirds either reducing their own salaries or stopping paying themselves a salary altogether in order to look after their staff first. Women entrepreneurs are committed to both creating and retaining jobs.”
Women entrepreneurs’ role in job creation
Bongiwe Gangeni, Deputy CE of Absa Retail and Business Bank, said the Job Creators Survey highlights the significant role women entrepreneurs play to create jobs and support the economy.
“Absa is proud to be partnering with Lionesses of Africa and to play our part to support women entrepreneurs to achieve their full potential by meeting their needs holistically through our wide range of innovative products and services and enterprise development programmes,” she added.
Digital presence demonstrated greater resilience
Other interesting findings from the survey indicated that women owned businesses with a digital presence demonstrated greater resilience during COVID-19. Those that made the majority of their sales through an app or online marketplace were less likely to be affected by COVID-19 and had more optimistic projections about their future revenues. Expectations surrounding future hiring also varied substantially between women leading companies with majority digital sales compared to those without.
When asked what their expectations are regarding jobs in their company over the next 12 months, 35% of women leading businesses that make the majority of their sales through an app or online marketplace responded that they expected jobs to increase a lot, compared with only 22% of women who were not embracing digital sales.
While the discussion above focuses on South Africa’s women entrepreneurs who have employees, solo entrepreneurs and those in partnerships that do not have employees should not be overlooked; these women-led businesses also bolster the labor market in significant ways.
85% of South Africa’s women entrepreneurs in non-employing partnerships and 78% of solo entrepreneurs reported that they hire or work with other self-employed freelancers or independent contractors. The majority of these women have growth in their plans: 79% of those in partnerships and 69% of solo entrepreneurs plan to make full-time hires at some point in the future, while 91% and 80%, respectively, reported that they plan to grow and scale their business.
Across all business types, South Africa’s women entrepreneurs expressed optimism about their revenue outlook for 2021, with 76% of respondents expecting to increase their revenues. Women entrepreneurs were similarly optimistic about the timeline for their businesses to recover from the impact of the pandemic, with the vast majority expecting to recover within two years. Both of these factors indicate green shoots for recovery and job creation in both the short and medium term.
To download a copy of the South African Women Entrepreneurs Job Creators Survey report, go to www.lionessesofafrica.com