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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Helping Women Entrepreneurs Reach their Goals

Recent studies have shown that more and more women are starting their own businesses, but that they face a number of challenges in doing so.

Chana Boucher

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Mentors offering a female entrepreneur support

Women entrepreneurs should turn to the many organisations that exist purely to support them in their business endeavours.

According to the White Paper on Female Entrepreneurship released this year by FNB, women entrepreneurs don’t make effective use of support services. Figures gathered by the South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN) indicated that 42% of women were not aware of organisations that support business in South Africa. Of the women who had used the organisations a significant number reported that their needs were met, showing that female business owners will benefit from using these organisations.

Here are some of the local organisations and associations set up to assist women entrepreneurs:

SAWEN

The SAWEN is a networking forum for individuals and organisations that are committed to the promotion and advancement of women entrepreneurs. It facilitates and monitors the socio-economic advancement of women entrepreneurs and their positive impact on the country’s economy. SAWEN facilitates access to business resources, information and opportunities for South African women entrepreneurs.

For more information, visit:

http://www.trevenna.net/sawen/sawenmain.htm

BWA (Businesswomen’s Association)

The Businesswomen’s Association is the largest and most prominent association of business and professional women in South Africa, and the voice of women in business. Through strategic partnerships with sponsors, non-profit organisations, leading companies, business schools and international associations, it provides ongoing opportunities to advance the interests of women in business. Members include entrepreneurs, professionals and senior decision makers. The BWA is a non-profit, voluntary organisation committed to offering real value in the form of leading and training, connecting and supporting members and South African business.

For more information visit:

http://www.bwasa.co.za

WIF (Women In Finance)

WIF is an exciting and inventive organisation that is at the forefront of SME assistance & development and the empowerment of women. WIF exists to create an innovative environment that empowers individuals to develop successful businesses throughout Africa through collaboration, support, diversity and challenge. The aim of WIF is to enable individuals and companies to maximise their growth and through its diverse offerings that include networking, mentorship, training, collaboration, entrepreneurship development and support.

For more information visit:

http://www.womeninfinance.co.za/

Women in IT

Women in IT is an initiative that was launched by Fizz Marketing with the support of big IT players like Microsoft to provide a support structure for those women working in what is today a male dominated IT environment. Membership is free and the benefits include a bursary and mentorship programmes, a quarterly electronic newsletter containing articles relating to women in IT, knowledge sharing through the website and invitations to events where you can connect with and support other women.

For more information, visit:

http://www.womeninit.co.za/registera.asp

Women in Business

The Women In Business organisation is a forum established as a networking platform to empower economically marginalised women to empower themselves. This platform is for the purpose of information sharing amongst groups of entrepreneurial, diverse women. Through this platform women are encouraged to take control of their businesses, to set their own agenda’s and timetables, to gain skills and knowledge, for the purpose of increasing business confidence, facilitating equal access to economic and productive resources, and to facilitate poverty eradication, utilising gender empowerment principles.

For more information, visit:
http://www.womeninbusiness.org.za/

WOESA (Women in Oil & Energy South Africa)

WOESA aims to facilitate and promote business opportunities for and enhance the participation of South African women in the oil and energy sector. It is imperative for women to focus cohesively on addressing their unique position in order to address these facts. WOESA’s first priority is to facilitate women’s participation in business opportunities in the oil, gas and other energy sector in South Africa. WOESA offers services to its member companies, organisations and individuals focusing on developing a knowledge base and building capacity amongst women through education and training.

For more information, visit:

http://www.woesa.com/

SAWIC (South African Women in Construction)

The South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) initiative was founded in 1997 to empower women to gain access to contracts, training, finance and networks in the construction industry. South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) is a National Association of women entrepreneurs, including women employed in all areas of construction, from the skilled trades to business ownership, with International Affiliation to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) in America and Australia. Members are invited to quarterly national workshops at the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Provincial quarterly workshops are held in the capital cities as well.

For more information, visit:

http://www.sawic.org/

TWIB (Technology for Women In Business)

Officially launched as a programme of the Department of Trade and Industry, the TWIB is located in the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Its main objective is to ensure that women involved in arts and craft, manufacturing, mining and energy, construction, tourism, and information and communication technology are empowered to adopt technology and science as an integral business solution for strengthening their enterprises.

For more information, visit:

http://www.trevenna.net/thedti/twib.htm

Women’s Development Businesses

The vision of the WDB Group is to offer real hope to the women of South Africa to enable them to build a self sustaining future. The primary vehicle that it uses to achieve this vision is offering microcredit to rural women in order to help them out of poverty in a sustainable manner. Throughout the world there is a growing realisation of the crucial role microcredit can play in reducing poverty, particularly when women are the main recipients. Increasingly women’s contribution, as workers, entrepreneurs and managers of family and community welfare is recognised as central to the ability of households, communities and the nation to tackle the crisis of meeting people’s survival and subsistence needs.

For more information, visit:

http://www.wdb.co.za

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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

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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

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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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