Despite the great strides that have been made to create gender equality in the workplace, imbalances in many industries still persist, particularly in developing nations. However, the ongoing advances in technology provide what is probably the most powerful tool in history to address these imbalances and provide women with opportunities to close the labour inequality gap.
It’s the 21st Century, and women still have less access to education than men
A recent World Bank survey in 34 African countries confirmed that women are lagging behind men in terms of access to education, with only 40% of those attaining a post-school qualification being female.
In the past, the inability to acquire a tertiary qualification would mean a bleaker employment outlook for the rest of one’s life, but technology provides the means to close the gap at any life stage.
Technology is a gender equality enabler
Technology provides opportunities to change gender work imbalances in a number of ways. The first is the lowering of barriers to entry. Surveys show that the gender gap in terms of education on the continent has been shrinking very slowly over the last few years, but this can be changed through access to the Internet.
As the Internet becomes increasingly available with the proliferation of smart devices, people are able to upskill themselves, regardless of previous qualifications.
This is important in the world of tech, where job requirements change so quickly that hardly any of the world’s top practitioners are using their qualifications to perform their work.
Tech industry does not suffer from inherent structural inequality
Being a modern industry, the tech world also does not suffer from the structural inequality we see in some other fields. In many other industries, one sometimes sees protectionism of particularly older men’s positions, but tech is a modern industry.
Its leaders should keep this in mind at all times and be dedicated to a balanced workplace. In the developed world, a larger proportion of the top networking engineers across the globe are women. This trend is starting to take hold in a number of African countries as well.
Addressing cultural factors perpetuating gender inequality
When I attended an IPv6 training session in Tunisia, which is aimed at fairly advanced engineers, 95% of those who attended were females. However, I have been to a number of similar conferences in South Africa, and women are hardly ever represented. One therefore may also need to address cultural concerns that might keep women out of the industry.
Currently, when we advertise a job opening, the vast majority of applicants are male, so it is not necessarily the employers who are making that choice. I believe most employers would be happy to employ a more diversified workforce.
In order to change the status quo, one would have to look at all the reasons why women are not qualifying themselves as tech engineers in the numbers we would like to see. These could include cultural, political, financial, perception, and many other factors.
A change is needed, and is coming
To address these issues, we believe that a good place to start is for the brilliant women in the industry to become increasingly heard, in order to create role models. I started out in the industry through role models and looking up to people for guidance. As a child, I could relate to older men in the industry, and the same can be true for young women. We are already seeing some work being done in this regard, but more can be done.
Lately, I have seen a massive drive on the coding front, and there are a lot more women entering the coding space, but there is some scope for development on the network and engineering side. In South Africa, I would presume that less than 1% of engineers in senior positions are women. The rest are all men, which is pathetic.
Role models that the youth identify with let them know that there is a path for them in that field. They would ask themselves whether they would feel comfortable doing a particular job, or out of place. The problem needs to be looked at holistically, as it stems from the very beginning. The pipeline is not so much broken as it is non-existent.
It stands to reason that those women who overcame gender equality in order to become successful advanced engineers would not allow the same inequalities to exist in their family should they choose to have one.
“See The Gap, Be decisive And Love What You Do” – Advice From A Fempreneur
Women are making headway in the entrepreneurial landscape, but we still have a long way to go to eliminate the gender gap in terms of entrepreneurial involvement.
Women face many barriers in business, including a lack of support structures, limited access to funding and the challenge of juggling personal and work responsibilities. Even though there is a growing community of women entrepreneurs globally, if we want equality in business and inclusive growth in our country, women entrepreneurs need to be developed and supported.
Having worked in the marketing and PR industry for many years, I came to recognise the frustration that clients felt at having to brief multiple agencies and it sparked an idea. I realised there was a gap in the market for an integrated agency that could develop a communications strategy for a client, and then offer all the marketing services in-house, from digital and direct marketing, to PR and social media.
Without a mentor or role model to learn from, I went in head first and handled everything on my own – new business, key client relationships, overseeing creative and even conducting quality control. With some guidance in the early years, I probably would have focused more on the bigger business strategy, rather than being stuck in the trenches. What I have learned over the years, is that running a business can be lonely, so I network with other business owners often to share ideas and concerns, and to see how I can do things in a more decisive and efficient way.
On the financial side, I was very fortunate to have business partners who invested in me and Stratitude. With this financial backing I could concentrate my efforts on building my business and delivering the best possible results, rather than worrying about money.
When it comes to work-life integration, I know that these two areas overlap, so I take a very pragmatic approach; in the same way that I don’t think twice about working from home when necessary, I’ll also take time out during the day to watch my children play sport or take them to the doctor. While I keep office hours and schedule meetings during the day, when I’m on a deadline I can be behind my laptop at 5am or 11pm.
I truly love what I do but, just like any business owner, you inevitably deal with moments of pressure and stress. To relieve this tension I run and swim. Swimming is my meditation and thinking time, and a good run in the morning helps me see the world more clearly. When it comes to relaxation, I make time to go to the beach or berg – I love the mountains and get recharged at the sea. As a family we also ensure that we take mini-breaks over weekends and commit to spending time with friends and family.
Women entrepreneurs are increasing in South Africa and they offer a unique optimism and focus in the business environment. While women look at the big picture and plan ahead, they also place emphasis on staff members and growing each individual. At Stratitude we have internal mentorship, training and coaching programmes to ensure that our skills are always up to date and to nurture our passions. I believe this is why we produce the award-winning work that we do.
To help solve South Africa’s unemployment crisis, we need more women-owned and led businesses. With more women creating jobs, rather than looking for jobs, we will start to impact the country’s business landscape and economy for the better.
How I Rebooted My Career After Getting Fired — Twice
People told me it was over. I didn’t listen.
Call it getting reorganised out. Call it getting fired. Whatever you call it, the result was the same. One day, I was running Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. The next day, they’d “simplified their leadership structure,” and I was on my couch, without a job for the second time in my adult life.
It’s a difficult thing to go from leading a team of tens of thousands to doing nothing. It’s more difficult when it feels so sudden. And it’s even more difficult when you don’t know what you’re going to do next.
My thoughts kept drifting back to a conversation I’d had with a high-profile editor when I was fired for the first time. It was back in 2008, and I had just been shown the door at Smith Barney.
We were talking about what led up to the firing: How we at Smith Barney had mistakenly positioned high-risk products as low-risk, how our clients had lost far more than we had led them to believe they could and how I’d gone up against the CEO (and won the support of the board) in favour of partially reimbursing clients.
Then the conversation turned to what would happen next, and what she had to say was a punch in the gut: “A man could come back from this. A woman? Not a chance.”
The short-lived career reboot
I refused to dwell on it, and I eventually was offered the job of running Merrill Lynch. Same type of job, but a bigger firm, a more storied history, in need of a turnaround. One that I and my team delivered.
But then the CEO who hired me retired and the new guy got busy putting in his own team. And so now I had two strikes on my record. Could I come back a second time? I remember pausing to stare out the window, and thinking, What if this is it? This could just be it for me. This could be the end.
It didn’t help that I went to lunch with one of my dear friends a couple of weeks later expecting a pep talk; what I got instead felt like a professional funeral. She asked me why I simply didn’t move back to my hometown of Charleston, S.C., and throw in the towel.
I felt like I was going to throw up. Two super-accomplished women, both of whom had my interests at heart, telling me it was over.
The self-created comeback
I made the decision that I simply wouldn’t believe them, despite evidence that they were right. I kept making calls and returning emails. I kept setting up lunches, and coffees and drinks. My phone started to ring. My inbox started to take on a life of its own.
As life returned to normal, I started to realise one important thing about success: There’s not just one road to success. It’s not that you are successful or you aren’t, or that failure and success are endpoints.
Instead, every single one of us has multiple opportunities to be successful. Each of those opportunities may be a long shot, but it can be the case that only one of them needs to work out for us to “be successful.” We just need to stay open to the possibilities.
So, exploring possibilities became my plan. I spent the next year or so learning what was out there. I called it “playing in traffic”: Engaging with people, learning about new industries and networking like it was my job. Because it was my job!
How networking led to career success
I’ve since come across the research that tells us that networking has been called the No. 1 unwritten rule of career success. Opportunities are far more likely to come from loose connections than close ones. And, through a string of those loose connections across a number of years, I had the reboot my career.
My first step was buying the old 85 Broads, a global professional network for women. I only found it because one introduction during that period of searching led to another introduction, let to another introduction, let to another one, and so on. Today, the old 85 Broads is Ellevate Network, a global community tens of thousands of women strong.
It is a a community that believes in the positive impact of women in business, and the community has made it our goal to help women advance at work. I later went on to found Ellevest, an investing platform for women; what unites the two is the recognition that advancing women — and, frankly, getting more money into the hands of women — is an unmitigated positive.
Getting reorged out of Merrill Lynch was a low point. But the challenges and self-discovery that followed gave me a tremendous opportunity: the chance to be an entrepreneur, and to use that platform to impact the lives of thousands of women around the world. It’s been more difficult than running Merrill Lynch, and more rewarding by far.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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.
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
- The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
- Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)
- Business Partners Women in Business Fund
- IDF Managers Funding
- Enablis Acceleration Fund
- The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
- Absa Women Empowerment Fund
- The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)
- 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.
The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
This government fund aims at accelerating women’s economic empowerment by supplying cost effective, user friendly and responsive finance. The IWF offers support services to improve the success of your business.
It targets businesses that are starting up, expanding, rehabilitating, franchising and those that need bridging finance.
The aim of the fund is to create self-sustaining black- and female-owned businesses by offering primary financial and non-financial support.
How to Apply for IWF Funding
Female-owned companies need to meet the following criteria to be eligible:
- Your business must be operational for 6 months.
- Your business requires early stage capital for expansions and growth.
- 50% plus one share owned and managed by women.
- Your business requires potential growth and commercial sustainability.
- Your business must improve social impact with employment creation.
Contact IWF for funding
- Businesses that are eligible and need funding between R30 000 and R2 million can submit their application.
- Apply to the IWF through the IDF website or call +27 (11) 772 7910.
- Download application forms from www.idf.co.za.
Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)
The Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF) was established by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to support access to entrepreneurial funds for women business owners. R400 million has been set aside for women-owned businesses.
“We need to increase the extent to which women own and manage existing and new enterprises by improving their access to economic resources and infrastructure,” says Meryl Mamathuba, Head of Development Funds Department at the IDC.
“This strategy is necessary to create viable opportunities that facilitate sustainable development and empowerment.”
How to Apply for WEF Funding
Women-owned businesses must meet the following requirements to qualify for WEF funding:
- Businesses must have at least 50% women shareholding.
- Applications can be for start-ups, expansions or acquisitions.
- You’ll need a solid, fundable business plan to start or expand within an identified market.
- Your business plan will need to include financial plans detailing: capital expenditure, working capital requirements, resourcing and operational involvement.
- You can also be a shareholder with a direct or indirect total net asset base of less than R15 million.
The following sectors are excluded from eligibility to the WEF:
- pure acquisitions
- import and export
- primary agriculture
- property development and consulting services such as recruitment and engineering.
Contact WEF for funding
You can find out more information and access the application form from the IDC website: http://www.idc.co.za/.
Business Partners Women in Business Fund
The Business Partners Limited Women in Business Fund is focused on assisting women entrepreneurs with starting, expanding or purchasing an existing business. The Women in Business Fund is aimed at helping women start their entrepreneurial journey on an even footing.
The fund aims to:
- Increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs
- Invest in viable women-owned businesses
- Assist in the growth and expansion of women-owned businesses
- Contribute towards an increase in the number of successful women entrepreneurs and inspire young females in choosing entrepreneurship as a career option.
- Facilitate the creation of new jobs and decreasing unemployment and poverty among the citizens of South Africa.
Do You Qualify for Business Partners Women in Business Fund funding?
Women-owned companies need to meet the following criteria to be eligible:
- Businesses with a minimum of 50% women shareholding.
- Women entrepreneurs, who wish to start, expand or buy an existing business.
- Women in operations and management roles in the business.
How to Apply for Business Partners Women in Business Fund funding?
To apply for financing from the Business Partners Women in Business Fund, you will need to submit your business plan to one of its Fund advisors. You can also send your business plan to firstname.lastname@example.org or deliver it to any one of the fund’s offices located country-wide.
Contact Business Partners Women in Business Fund for funding
If you wish to contact Business Partners for further information you are also welcome to submit a finance enquiry online email@example.com and one of their investment personnel will contact you.
Knowing how to write a funding proposal properly can make or break your business idea before it even gets off the ground.
IDF Managers Funding
The Identity Development Fund is a leading organisation in developing innovative financial products with the added benefit of being integrated with non-financial support. IDF is focused on unlocking value in the entrepreneurial sector through fund management services for institutional and corporate investors.
This fund is divided into multiple sectors, including:
- Management funds, which are targeted at entrepreneurial SME investment and development.
- Advisory services on strategy and implementation of a new project, which is targeted at the development of entrepreneurs.
Financial support is structured on a case by case basis and non-financial support is tailored to the needs of businesses during the various stages of growth, as well as the needs of the entrepreneur.
Do You Qualify for IDF Managers Funding?
Your business needs to meet the following criteria to be eligible:
- Black owned and managed (51% or more); or
- Black women and managed businesses (51% or more); or
- Black youth owned and managed (51% or more)
IDF Managers are focusing on the following industries to help you diversify your portfolio:
- Wholesale and retail
- Mining and infrastructure related services
- Healthcare services
- Transport and Logistics
- Other productive sectors
- Supply chain linked opportunities
The following sectors are excluded from eligibility to the IDF Mangers Fund:
- Speculative real estate
- Non-commercial ventures (NPO)
- Businesses deriving revenue from gambling, liquor, military or illegal activities
- Businesses not socially responsible or adverse to the development of small businesses
- Primary farming
- Replacement finance
- Professional services
Contact IDF Mangers Fund for funding
To apply for capital, please visit http://www.idf.co.za/entrepreneurs.php# and download the application form at the bottom of the page. Once the application form is completed you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related: 10 Tips for Finding Seed Funding
Enablis Acceleration Fund
The Enablis Acceleration Fund is a partnership between Enablis Financial Corporation SA (Pty) Ltd and Khula Enterprise Finance Limited. It is currently capitalised at R50 million.
Its aim is to improve access to SME early stage funding, while reaching out and supporting SME’s that are developing in remote or rural areas with a view to creating new sustainable jobs that alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment.
This acceleration fund offers equity and debt instruments over loan periods no longer than 60 months.
Do You Qualify for Enablis Acceleration Funding?
Those eligible for this acceleration funding must meet the following criteria:
- South African SMEs that are accredited by the Enablis Entrepreneurial Network.
- Black and women entrepreneurs for start-ups and the expansion of a business.
- SMEs involved in all sectors, specifically ICT, transport, tourism, agriculture and services industry.
- SMEs that need working capital and or asset finance.
How to Apply for Enablis Acceleration Funding
To become a member and start on your journey with Enablis, visit the Join Enablis section at http://www.enablis.org/ and fill out the application form. You will be contacted by the appropriate chapter manager.
Contact Enablis Acceleration Funding for funding
The contact details for the person in charge of enquires for South Africa are:
- Name: Ebenise Bester
- Contact: +27 21 422 0690 (CT)
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Address: Suite 202 Sir Lowry Studios, 95 Sir Lowry Road, Cape Town, 8001
The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
The National Empowerment Fund is a government agency that is set up to provide capital for black economic empowerment transactions.
Although this isn’t specifically a female-focused entrepreneur fund, it does cater for black women and aims to empower them to become part of the entrepreneur society.
The NEF is a driver and a thought-leader when it comes to promoting and facilitating black economic participation through the provision of financial and non-financial support to black empowered businesses, as well as by promoting a culture of savings and investment among black people.
Do You Qualify for The National Empowerment Funding?
The main investment areas for this fund are construction, information and communication technology and media, as well as food and agro-processing sectors.
While these sectors will be favoured, it doesn’t mean other sectors are not eligible for funding.
This fund is also specifically targeted at BEE candidates and consequently will not be available to other candidates.
How to Apply for the National Empowerment Fund
Whether your business is a start-up or an existing business, every applicant must fill in an application form once you understand the NEF requirements and identify products that suit you. The application serves as a screening document. After this you’ll need to draw up a comprehensive business plan.
Contact the National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
For more information and insights into the fund:
Fore more information on NEF funding visit the guide here.
One reason for developing a business plan is to get outside parties interested in providing capital for a new venture. A good business plan tells an interesting and comprehensive story that an outside party can use to evaluate the viability of a new business concept.
Absa Women Empowerment Fund
Absa has positioned itself to assist with the empowerment of females by introducing the Women Empowerment Fund. This loan offers a minimum of R50 000 to a maximum of R3 million with a maximum loan of five years and a monthly reducible overdraft.
The Women Empowerment Fund has been designed so that 70% of the loan is paid directly to suppliers and the interest rate is linked to the prime lending rate. The loan will also be structured according to the associated credit risk of the entrepreneur and their business.
If you’re a businesswoman with the skills and expertise to make a success of your business and your loan application has been turned down because you did not have enough security, then you may be eligible for finance though Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund, depending on your businesses’ capability to repay the loan.
Do You Qualify for Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund?
Those eligible for this acceleration funding must meet the following criteria:
- You are a South African woman permanently residing in South Africa.
- Your business is a Small to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) as defined by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – including new start-ups, existing businesses, franchises and businesses switching from other banks, subject to Absa Credit approval.
- You do not qualify for a traditional business loan under normal banking criteria due to poor credit records (must be justifiable).
- The business’s major shareholder (more than 66%) is fully involved in the day-to-day operation of the business.
- You have the skills and, or, expertise relevant to your business and the industry or sector.
- You have a well-researched business plan.
- Your business can show profitability through historical financials or a realistic cash flow forecast.
- You operate in an approved industry (ask ABSA’s consultants about the sectors and industries that do not qualify).
- You require repeat loans, but only once the initial loan has been repaid in full.
- You need a loan of between R50 000 and R3 million with a maximum loan term of five years and monthly reducible overdrafts.
- You can show evidence of a revenue stream, i.e. letters of intent. (Purchase orders)
- The main business transactional account is held with Absa; no split banking is allowed.
The following conditions mean you will be unable to receive funding for ABSA’s Women Empowerment Fund:
- Non-South African citizens
- Money raising ventures
- All trusts, public companies, section 21 companies
- Commercial and Residential property finance
How to Apply for Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund
You will find more information and the application form on the website here.
To apply for funding complete the application form and bring it to your nearest Absa branch, along with the relevant supporting documentation listed on the last page of the application form.
Contact the Absa Women Empowerment Fund
For more information and enquiries into the fund contact ABSA on their support centre line: 0860 040 302.
Resources and support
Government and successful women entrepreneurs have realised there is a gap in education for female entrepreneurs and have started to create support programmes where female entrepreneurs can find out exactly what they need to be successful within a specific sector or business.
The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)
The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP) within the Programme Analysis and Development (PAD) of SEDA, has an arm that focuses on projects specifically for women.
The SPP is supporting women so that they are hindered less by negative prevailing socio-cultural attitudes, gender discrimination or bias and personal difficulties.
The Special Projects and Programmes Unit is a platform where women can educate themselves about all the various aspects of becoming an entrepreneur. This resource also provides women with information on additional funding sources.
Contact the Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)
For more information and enquiries into the programme:
- Name: National Information Centre
- Tel: 0860 103 703
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)
The WOESA Group of businesses is focused on facilitating and promoting business for, and enhancing, the participation of South African women in the oil and energy sector.
WOESA offers services to its member companies, organisations and individuals that focus on developing a knowledge base and building capacity amongst women through education and training.
The group facilitates access to business opportunities and conducts advocacy work for women, by assisting them in drafting legislation and policies. WOESA also aims to assist women with access to funding and investment.
WOESA provides specific services to enhance female participation in the oil and energy sector. These services include:
- Organising workshops and conferences
- Develop a knowledge base and make it accessible to its members
- Interface between members and business opportunities
- Networking, lobbying and advocacy
- Participation in drafting legislation and policies
- Facilitation of access to finance/funding for business opportunities for women in the oil and energy sector
- Developing and maintaining an interactive website with information for members only, containing news, legislation, articles, business opportunities, a calendar and more.
- Recruitment of women in the oil and energy sector.
Contact Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)
For more information and enquiries into the programme:
Women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the entrepreneurial world. To assist them in growing and reaching new markets, government and private business have created funds and resources designed for women.
These funds and resources will help women entrepreneurs to become more successful by providing them with both financial and non-financial support.
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