Female entrepreneurial activity has been proven to be a major catalyst in triggering economic growth in developing countries, such as South Africa. The 5% increase in the number of female finalists in the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition is thus an encouraging sign.
According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, the trend of increased female entrepreneurial activity is reflected in the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) South Africa Report, which reveals an improvement in female entrepreneurial levels over the past decade.
Still room for improvement
However, Naidoo adds that when compared to their male counterparts and the rest of the world there is still much room for improvement. “This women’s month it is imperative that we promote and recognise the female entrepreneurial leaders of South Africa and present them as role models to aspiring local women.”
She says that research from the GEM over past years found that female participation in entrepreneurial activity contributed significantly to economic development, especially in emerging economies like South Africa.
Female participation on the rise
Naidoo also notes that there has been a vast improvement in the participation of females in the economy over the past decade. “According to GEM research the Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) for South African females improved by 161,3% from 2001 – 2010, growing from 3,1% to 8,1%.
Naidoo adds that at least a third of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition entries received in 2012 were from female entrepreneurs, highlighting how women are increasingly starting their own businesses.
“The 2010 GEM Women’s Report states that women are as equally likely as men to view entrepreneurship as an attractive opportunity, but tend to doubt their own personal capacity and ability, which may be attributed to their lack of personal contact with other female entrepreneurs,” she says.
“Research shows that the probability of a woman becoming an entrepreneur is vastly improved when she is exposed to fellow female mentors and role models.
“While all entrepreneurs are faced with challenges, women often have additional challenges that their male counterparts are less likely to encounter, such as a greater demand on their time, resources and energy as a result of family pressures. Other challenges women face could include gender discrimination and a lack of equal opportunities in certain industries.”
Naidoo adds that that these challenges should be addressed and that the perception around female entrepreneurship must change. “In order to promote female entrepreneurship and reduce the gender gap occurring in the work place it is imperative that we recognise South Africa’s successful female leaders and present them as role models to aspiring South African women.”
2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition finalist Tabisa Nomngana echoes this sentiment and believes determination is the key to success. “Female entrepreneurs need to believe in the beauty of their dreams. As female entrepreneurs we have an extra challenge of having to prove that gender has nothing to do with running a successful business. It’s all about hard work and dedication.”