As the generation to grow up after the first waves of feminism, we have much to celebrate, such as career opportunities not afforded to many women before us. There are still many challenges. Women are the underestimated powerhouses of an economy. This is not a fact that is relevant only to South Africa, but it is a global phenomenon. Mike Anderson, CEO and founder of the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), says South Africa needs not only to build entrepreneurship, but to encourage and develop female business owners. He says the bigger picture lies in reshaping the modern-day global economy.
“Forbes says that what’s good for women is good for the economy and I think this is truer for South Africa than anywhere else right now. While we have many rural women already striving to be sustainable, we need to focus on developing our formal sector and boost female entrepreneurship and small business development.”
While there has been progress it is nowhere near enough, or at a level where it will make an impact on social and economic issues. A recent study by the international National Business Women’s Council indicated that women-owned entrepreneurs raise smaller amounts of capital to finance their businesses and are more reliant on personal rather than external sources of financing. Within the context of growth-oriented entrepreneurship, this distinction is important. Growth-oriented businesses typically require substantial amounts of external capital in the form of both debt and equity. If women entrepreneurs do not seek, or if they are not able to obtain, external capital, prospects for growing their small businesses are diminished considerably.
AREAS OF GROWTH
Locally, the SME Growth Index examines three sectors with growth and value adding potential: manufacturing, business services and tourism. The index claims that 21% of its panellists are women, but would like to see an increase in female businesses within these sectors. The multi-country Global Economic Monitor (GEM) has Laurika Fourie, Product Manager at 21st Century – one of the largest remuneration and reward consultancies in Africa – offers the following tips for women who are shaping their professional trajectory.
BE THE BEST VERSION OF YOU
Change starts with you: Take opportunities presented to you even if you feel you are not ready. There is great wisdom in the advice, “fake it until you make it”. Think of the women who have come before you. Many of them took advantage of the opportunities they were presented, and you should do the same.
Find a mentor: An established group of mentors is highly beneficial to any young woman in the workplace. Look for a solid group whom you can turn to for support, no matter what your field, and even gain insights about a possible career move. However, it is important to remember that, as with all relationships, a mentorship is two-way and you should bring something to the party. Trust those with experience: Understand your boss and accept that he/she is more experienced than you are. You may not get along as such, but you can always learn from your boss with the long-term goal of advancing your career. Think of your relationship as a process of discovery.
If your boss values communication, then communicate. If they value details, you should provide details. Always be willing to take on the work assigned, within reason, and go the extra mile wherever possible. Focus on results, not hours or days: Realising your dreams requires hard work and dedication. Perhaps the best advice is to ignore the time element and focus on results. Use innovative and intensive ways to further your career and feel safe in the knowledge that you will become the high-achieving woman you know you can be. shown that businesses owned by women tend to be smaller than those owned by men, both in terms of turnover and number of employees. The findings from the SME Growth Index are consistent with this global pattern, finding that women-owned businesses generally have a lower turnover and fewer employees compared to those owned by men.
DRIVING BUSINESS SUCCESS
Together with title sponsor Nedbank, the NSBC and its Small Business Friday movement aim to encourage the support of local small businesses. “In the United States, economists and academics agree that women entrepreneurs are an underutilized force that can rekindle economic expansion. They are becoming more entrepreneurial and already own 36% of all businesses in the US,” continues Mike. Small Business Friday encourages all South Africans to go out there and support local small businesses. It’s a one-day high-action drive on the first Friday of spring every year, to celebrate and recognise the importance of the small business community. For more information and to pledge your support for South Africa’s biggest small business day of the year, visit www.smallbizfriday.co.za.
Photographs: Achmat Booley; Supplied