According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the entrepreneur is one who organizes, manages, but also assumes the risks of a business. Going through this definition, I thought to myself, “Never have I seen such a short and simple combination of words to describe something so big.” This is an understatement. I believe that an entrepreneur is much more than that. Asked about this topic, Melvine Nassi, entrepreneur and founder of Kiss Me Lingerie, replied: “An entrepreneur is a creator, an innovator, someone who is not afraid to take risks and profit from an idea.” Well, I totally agree. But I would say it goes way beyond that. An entrepreneur is a role model. Because, while it is exciting to talk about a dream, it is inspiring to see it come true, built from the ground.
As explained in American Express’s State of Women-Owned Businesses 2018 Report, the number of women-owned businesses has been steadily increasing, reaching nearly 3,000% in the United States since 1972. Between 2007 and 2016, the United States had 40% of new women entrepreneurs, while Europe had around 64.4% of entrepreneurs (start-ups and independent owners) in its female population. While it is difficult to get aggregate figures for Asia and Africa, these continents also have countries in which women strive to be successful in entrepreneurship. Like for example Thailand, China, the Philippines in Asia and Ghana, Uganda, Botswana in Africa. And even though the numbers are different, there is still one common and undeniable fact to notice: the increased interest of women in entrepreneurship over the past decade. For 2016 alone, the number of women who started or managed a business is over 150 million.
BUT WHY? WHAT DOES ENTREPRENEURSHIP REPRESENT FOR WOMEN AND HOW DOES SOCIETY BENEFIT FROM PROMOTING WOMEN’S ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
Today more than ever, women are turning their backs on the status of simple employees to become entrepreneurs and I have found many reasons for this. The level of importance of each of these reasons may vary depending on the geographic location.
In the United States, the first and most common reason is “work-life” balance. I recently found myself trying different jobs, hoping to find one that would allow me to be free enough to take on other tasks, such as school. and my projects (this website for example). I even tried working part-time, but needless to say, this option doesn’t really work if you’re self-employed and have to pay your bills on time. But having your own business can help strike that balance. And just like me, just over half of American women have started or want to start their own business because of the flexibility it will give them. Being able to control their career and their personal lives at the same time.
In Africa, on the other hand, as the demand for jobs increases, the supply declines. So for this part of the world entrepreneurship seems to be the best alternative. These dedicated African women want to be able to financially support their families and guarantee a better future for their offspring. Other reasons found are passion and additional income streams. Some women just think about the future and find it important to secure their finances by having a second source of income. They are the ones who generally get into entrepreneurship out of passion.
This interest in entrepreneurship surely benefits society. A direct benefit for the United States to have more female entrepreneurs is the reduction in stress levels in the country. We have all seen a friend, neighbor, coworker, student rush in and get stressed out because their schedule makes it difficult for their children to be around. A good work-life balance allows for fulfillment, which has a positive impact on families and human interactions. In the meantime, in Africa and Asia, more women entrepreneurs could lead developing countries to political and / or economic growth. But, as positive as the consequences of female entrepreneurship may be, women still face many obstacles.
WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES TO WOMEN’S ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
The list is long.
- Low level of education and lack of training opportunities (especially in developing countries)
- Different kinds of constraints (legal, traditional, cultural or religious)
- Insufficient access to funding
- Gender gap
- Lack of role models and mentoring, to name a few.
Despite their best efforts, it seems the world is not yet convinced of women’s ability to create and achieve great things. And yet, there are many examples of women who started out slow and have become great entrepreneurs. They now run businesses worth millions, if not billions. 4 major models of women entrepreneurs are:
- Oprah Winfrey. Founder and CEO of OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), Founder of Harpo Productions and the Oprah Winfrey Girls Leadership Academy. (America)
- Ndhlukula Divine. Founder and director of SECURICO. (Africa)
- Dear Wang. Co-founder of HTC. (Asia)
- Amber Atherton. Founder and CEO of Zyper. (Europe)
Even though the journey is difficult for women who decide to turn to entrepreneurship, there is hope that the coming years will provide them with better options and possibilities. “The future is female” and we should all strive to educate women about entrepreneurship.
Created April 2019