The study found that while women aren’t opposed to starting a business of their own, the fear of the financial risk associated with entrepreneurship and the lack of support structures to enable them to start a business are some of the biggest obstacles holding them back.
The research, which involved surveying over 600 women, was conducted by Livingfacts for the Sage Foundation to provide insights into the motivations and aspirations of South African businesswomen.
Just 20% of women, who currently don’t own a business, but have aspirations to do so in the future, said that they had adequate networks to help support them with their family responsibilities in order to free up time to focus on their business.
“Starting and running a business is far more time-intensive than many women realise. Often, for women, a nine-to-five corporate job allows for more time with one’s family, and would-be entrepreneurs struggle to maintain balance between work and their personal lives – especially in the first few critical years of building a business,” says Joanne van der Walt, Sage Foundation Manager for Africa.
“Changing gender stereotypes of who does what in a family and women overcoming their own reluctance to ask for help are key changes that could encourage female entrepreneurship.”
The study suggests that there’s a need to encourage girls from a young age to take up entrepreneurship as a viable career option.
“Many families encourage young women to look for government or corporate employment, seeing this as a lower risk route for their future careers. Yet with youth joblessness at above 50%, many of our young women may never have a corporate job. We need to help young women see the risks and potential failures of entrepreneurship as learning experiences on the road to growth and prosperity,” Van der Walt says.
Access to funding remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks for women, with 84% of the women surveyed utilising their personal savings to fund their businesses and 33% of women who returned to the corporate world after starting a business cited access to capital as the main driver for their decision to go back.
Unlike men, many women found selling their business and creating a sustainable sales pipeline challenging.
“Female entrepreneurs need to be taught how to find and ask for business, how to build a pipeline and to be fearless – not taking things personally – when it comes to rejection and to always remember an idea is just an idea until someone buys into it,” the report reads.
According to the study, women who choose to start their own business are attracted to the freedom of being their own boss and the benefits of being rewarded for their own efforts.