The index looks at a city’s ability to attract and foster growth in firms founded by women entrepreneurs. The findings from the WE Cities index are used as a springboard for conversation and change at the seventh annual Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Summit (DWEN) taking place in Cape Town this week.
The DWEN is a global gathering of 200 top female entrepreneurs, business leaders, media and Dell partners, and the theme for this year’s summit is “Innovate for a Future-Ready World”.
Doug Woolley, General Manager of Dell in South Africa, told Fin24 on Monday that IT has enabled women entrepreneurs to use opportunities to start businesses. In his view, women are well placed in SA – due to empowerment codes and flexible policies – to use entrepreneurial opportunities.
He also pointed out that research has shown women entrepreneurs give back more on a social level than their male counterparts. The only barrier for them is access to venture capital. Access to markets is often another challenge for them.
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“South Africans are actually very entrepreneurial by nature. We must not underestimate ourselves,” said Woolley. He added that having the DWEN in Cape Town – the first time it takes place in Africa – brings excellent exposure to the country.
“Innovation and job creation by women entrepreneurs is critical for a thriving global economy, yet our research shows some cities and countries are doing far more than others to encourage and support this important subset of the start-up community,” said Karen Quintos, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Dell.
“Our index provides insights to move the conversation with policymakers and city leaders from awareness to action and, in turn, to empower women entrepreneurs to have the greatest economic impact on the world.”
New York came out tops on the index followed by the Bay Area, London, Stockholm, Singapore, Toronto and Washington DC. Johannesurg beats Jakarta and Istanbul on the top 25 list.
Research based on the index has found the five important categories of WE city are capital, technology, talent, culture and markets. New York, for instance, ranks top overall for its ability to attract and support high potential women entrepreneurs.
According to Quintos the top five challenges facing women entrepreneurs are being able to obtain venture capital, government policies, cultural bias, access to capital and needing success stories of other women entrepreneurs to inspire the next generation of young women.
Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell, said at the summit that women entrepreneurs should “learn, launch and scale” their businesses. They should learn from each other and take the best practices and ideas to create scale for their businesses.
She used South Africa and Rwanda as examples of countries in Africa where the fair number of women elected on all levels of government have acted as a catalyst for policies which are enabling to women.
“Policies in these countries could almost leapfrog due to women in leadership and when other women see this, it acts as good examples to inspire them,” said Gore.
Quintos cautioned, though that in general in the world cultural biases towards women are some of the “unspoken truths” women entrepreneurs have to deal with.