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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Hello to You: The Millennial Women in the Workforce

Millennial women are the next leaders in the workplace. Businesses need to sit up and take note of what they can bring to the mix.





It is time to consider the aspirations and rate of progress of young women in the workplace. These millennial women, born between 1980 and 1995, are our leadership pipeline for the future. By 2020 they are expected to make up one quarter of the labour force.

Shifting the business culture

“Currently between 19 and 34 years of age, these women have very different approaches to the world of work from their predecessors,” says Sandra Burmeister, CEO of Amrop Landelahni. “It’s time the corporate world took notice.

“This is not just about equity targets. It’s about a culture shift in the DNA of the company, which recognises the unique contributions that women can make.

Related:  How to Become a Millionaire by Age 30

“We have given a lot of attention recently to women on boards and in executive management. This continues to be important, since change in the top ranks is needed to drive change throughout the company. However, we also need to focus on talented younger women, prepare them for leadership roles and accelerate their rate of progress up the corporate hierarchy.”

Two women graduates to each man

In South Africa, women now outnumber men by almost two to one in obtaining tertiary degree qualifications. Even in the sciences there is an upward trend. Millennial women are soaring ahead in universities and technical colleges.

Female engineering graduates across all disciplines increased from 9% in 1999 to 26% in 2011. Over the same12-year period, female information and communications technology graduates increased from 9% to 26%.

In accounting there has been astounding progress, says Burmeister. In 1999 accounting graduates reflected a 50/50 gender split. By 2011, women had overtaken men to represent 58% of all graduations.

Become a change catalyst

“To attract this millennial talent – a generation born in an era defined by constant technological advancement and rapid globalisation – demands a different leadership approach.”

As PwC states in its ‘Next Generation Diversity’ report, “To become a change catalyst … organisations must drive parallel efforts which tackle enhanced leadership diversity in conjunction with systemic change efforts targeting their workforce from day one.”

The PwC survey shows that opportunities for career progression and a strong record on equality and diversity are important employer characteristics sought after by female millennials. More than 80% say these are important factors in deciding whether or not to work for an organisation. In addition, millennials “have a strong appetite for working abroad, with 71% keen to do so at some stage in their careers.” Yet they continue to face prejudice when it comes to international assignments.

The challenge facing leaders of today is to identify the drivers motivating these women so that they can put in place flexible acquisition, retention and reward strategies that match their aspirations, says Burmeister.

Enter the new workplace

“The new workplace needs a high-octane mix of talent to deliver the innovations needed to keep business competitive. The potential for high-performance is something that millennial women possess in abundance, but they are also high-maintenance employees.

“Long gone are the days of a 30-year career in the organisation. Shorter tenure and alternative employment models have become the norm. The global shortage in highly skilled professions has led to massive skills mobility. And of course, as a result of technological change, skills become obsolete faster.

“Smart leaders are building international assignments into their leadership development plans for women, and using specialised projects as a means both to build skills and hold the attention of highly talented individuals.”

A recent Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor shows that women perform markedly better than men on the four attributes deemed most important for effective leaders. These are leading by example, transparent communication, admitting mistakes, bringing out the best in others, and handling controversial issues or crises calmly. In short honesty, transparency and collaboration matter most.

“Let us celebrate the feminine characteristics that women bring to the new world of work, rather than trading in outdated male paradigms,” says Burmeister. “Making the most of female millennial talent will bring rewards both to public and private sector organisations – and the women who work in them.”

Related: Why Millennials Should Become Entrepreneurs Now 

About Amrop Landelahni (a subsidiary of the Landelahni Group)

Amrop Landelahni is an executive search firm operating across the continent. It is the sub-Saharan partner of Amrop, a worldwide executive search network with 90 offices in close to 60 countries. Its services include executive and board search, consultancy and leadership assessment.

Amrop Landelahni is a subsidiary of the Landelahni Group, a black- and women-owned executive search and leadership development group providing a range of integrated services across Africa.

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Collaborating To Create #balanceforbetter

Communicating this business case, setting goals and reporting on progress are key to driving change. The door to diversity will not open itself.

Anna Curzon




Each year on 8 March, International Women’s Day, I get invited to attend events that celebrate and discuss gender diversity in the workplace. They’re often rich with intelligent discussions about women and work, a topic I am immensely passionate about.

But all too often, I sit up on stage, look out to the crowd and I think, ‘where on earth are all the men?’ There are many supportive men on gender diversity (I know quite a few) but there is still work to be done as I often find myself singing to a choir of women who already know that gender diversity is a business priority.

It’s irrefutable that having a gender balance leads to better business outcomes, greater profitability and value creation. Better balance between women and men means broader insight, more empathy, and fresh ideas.

Gender diversity is not only a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. And the majority of our business leaders today, in particular in technology, are men. The only way we are truly going to make headway is to have the men standing with us to create a business environment where women can thrive.

I believe collaboration is vital to have as part of any gender diversity discussion and would even go so far as to say it’s negligent if this isn’t on a male or female business leaders’ agenda.

However, I think it’s easy to point fingers and we all need to look at how we can create more inclusive environments. It’s critical we have discussions in an open forum, and that organisers of events and support groups create positive opportunities for discussion that encourage men and women to attend and work together.

It worries me that the 2018 McKinsey and Company report on Women in the Workplace shows that progress hasn’t just slowed, it’s stalled. All the while, companies are reporting that they are highly committed to gender diversity. It’s a frustrating paradox. We didn’t open the door to diversity, only to turn around and shut it behind us.

Recently, I was introduced to the term moral-licensing through Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History. I can’t help but think that the phenomenon might be at play here. It describes the subconscious decisions we make to engage in prejudice behaviour, because in the past we did something virtuous.

Moral-licensing became a popular theory in 2009, describing those who voted in US President Barack Obama, and subsequently reverted to racist behaviours.

When I think about it in this context, I think about the companies who have hit a quota of females and assume the job is done. But token acts of egalitarianism do not mean you have an egalitarian workplace. It’s box-ticking and it’s bad for business.

I encourage every business leader to introduce a diversity plan and to really think about fostering an inclusive and respectful environment for diversity to thrive. Here’s where I think is a good place to start:

Women need to feel supported in the workplace, they need allies to feel confident enough that they can share their beliefs, their values and their views. Our leaders need to reengineer working environments to make them a safe, supportive place.
We need to be aware of our unconscious biases and flagging behaviour in the workplace that isn’t inclusive. It’s little things like calling grown women ‘girls’. They’re small but reinforcing behaviours and when added up, they have impact.
Support groups and events around International Women’s Day are great, but how can we make sure we have a diverse spread in the room and it’s an inclusive and encouraging environment for everyone.

I do believe the majority of businesses have the very best of intentions in this space, but leaders need to turn those intentions into actionable plans. So this International Women’s Day, I challenge you to speak out publicly about your business’s progress and goals for diversity. How is your organisation tracking and what is your vision and plan for the future? What you’re doing to ensure you’re not giving in to moral-licensing?

Communicating this business case, setting goals and reporting on progress are key to driving change. The door to diversity will not open itself.

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Female entrepreneurs are growing in numbers, but without access to appropriate funding many start-ups will find it difficult to grow their businesses, regardless of whether there’s a man or woman at the helm. Fortunately, access to funds for female entrepreneurs is improving thanks to government and private enterprises.

Nicole Crampton



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In fact, The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) noted that 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises are currently owned by women. Government and private enterprises have put programmes and funds in place aimed at empowering the women of South Africa.

Starting a business is always a challenging objective, what makes it more challenging is trying to find funding to get your innovative idea of the ground.

Content in this guide

  1. The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
  2. Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)
  3. Business Partners Women in Business Fund
  4. IDF Managers Funding
  5. Enablis Acceleration Fund
  6. The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
  7. Absa Women Empowerment Fund
  8. The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)
  9. Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

Funds and Financial Assistance

Here are seven funds and financial assistance programmes as well as two resources for women entrepreneurs in South Africa.

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Too Few South African Women Become Entrepreneurs, But This Can Change

Organisations built by business women and that speak loudly and assertively for business women will send an unambiguous message that women belong in the community of entrepreneurs.

Gugu Mjadu




Although South Africa’s constitutional democracy has been advocating for gender equality for the past 24 years, the level of entrepreneurship among South African men and women is still far less equal than the country’s economic peers such as Ghana and Uganda. This is an indication that a progressive constitution alone is not enough to ensure that women join the local community of entrepreneurs in equal numbers to men.

Illustrating this, are the latest figures from the 2017/2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) which show that 13 out of every 100 South African men are involved in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity, compared to just 9 out of every 100 women. 

This research shows that the inequality goes deeper than just the headline figure. A higher percentage of women who do start their own ventures do so out of necessity (34.3 percent for women vs. 18 percent for men), whereas South African men, on the other hand, are more likely to start a business in response to an opportunity (82 percent for men vs. 65.7 percent for women). As research indicates that opportunity-driven entrepreneurs are more likely to create wealth than necessity-driven entrepreneurs, this is definitely an area for improvement for our country.

The GEM study is an annual survey, and dishearteningly, a look at the GEM figures over a number of years shows no discernible trend towards closing the gap, while some of South Africa’s economic peers such as Brazil and Vietnam consistently show an equal number of men and women starting businesses. 

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

Gender parity in entrepreneurship needs a consistent stretch of truly high economic growth, north of 6 percent, to shake lose any remaining cultural, psychological and economic chains that are keeping women back. Unlike its counterparts, South Africa’s economic growth over the past few decades has seldom breached 4 percent – hovering around 3 percent since 1994. 

This might also explain the general low levels of entrepreneurship in the South African population, among both men and women, compared to its economic peers – 11 percent of the South African population is involved in entrepreneurial activity. Wealth creating businesses start in response to opportunities, which multiply when economic growth is strong.

Short of a massive economic stimulus needed to propel South Africa’s economic growth upward, is there anything that can be done on an incremental level in order to establish entrepreneurial equality between men and women in South Africa? 

I believe that there are many low-key ways in which to entice more women to become entrepreneurs. One place to start, is to focus on the income-generating side-lines that many South African women are engaged in. A scan of social media shows that South African women are not short of ideas nor initiative. From activities that are traditionally seen as female-oriented such as baking and sewing, to truly innovative social clubs and online initiatives seem to provide an outlet for many women’s entrepreneurial urges. Yet too few of them develop into proper full-time careers.

Programmes focused on women and their side-hustles might find fertile ground to grow them into fully fledged businesses.

Another factor that might entice more women to start businesses is more accessible finance. There is no easy solution, however, as research shows that men are more likely to start looking for finance early when they launch their ventures. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to use their own funds to start a business and thus delay seeking finance until their venture is potentially in trouble making it more difficult to secure finance. 

The solution, if any, lies in education and training deep enough to effect a significant shift in mind-set. Given the poor state of the educational system, South Africa still has a way to go, but it could be argued that any incremental improvement in the education system would boost the country’s levels of entrepreneurship. 

It remains to be seen if an increase in gender equality and representation among bankers and financiers may lead to improved access to finance for female entrepreneurs, but because it is a good thing in itself, gender parity in the finance industry is worth pursuing. 

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

The celebration of female entrepreneurship in popular culture, social media and as part of cultural events remains important and probably cannot be overdone. Awareness of the possibility of success in the business world for females remains fundamental to any young woman’s decision to choose entrepreneurship.

Finally, a strengthening of the profile of women’s business associations in South Africa can become an important factor in increasing the number of female entrepreneurs. Organisations built by business women and that speak loudly and assertively for business women will send an unambiguous message that women belong in the community of entrepreneurs.

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