Women have always been the major contributors of human capital in most nations of the world. Traditionally, women were confined to household activities, but time is changing very fast. The world of today is a global village and increasing awareness has motivated women to start their own business and contribute to family income.
The desire for economic independence among women all over the world has led to a large number of women entrepreneurs on the map of entrepreneurship. The emergence of Women business owners are an important and growing force in any local economy; both in terms of number of participants and the gross revenues and employment they represent. In the wake of economic liberalization and globalization, women entrepreneurship is gaining importance in India. Tanzania. Somalia, North East Sri lanka ctc. For proper conceptualization of women entrepreneurship, this article attempts to do the following: To define and trace the etymological meaning of the word entrepreneurship. Attempt a definition of the term “women entrepreneurship”: Trace the historical development of women entrepreneurship.
DEFINITION AND ORIGIN OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Entrepreneurship is a process undertaken by an entrepreneur to augment his business interest. It is an exercise involving innovation and creativity that tends towards establishing an enterprise. It is the propensity of mind to take risks with confidence to achieve set out business objectives (Edvinraj, 2005). The word “Entrepreneurship” appeared first in French. In the early 16″ century, men who were engaged in leading military expenditions were referred to as entrepreneurs. Around 17th century, the term was used for architects and contractors of public works. Later Casson (1991) used the word entrepreneur to describe a person who specializes in taking judgmental decision about the coordination of scarce resources.
The above definition indicates that “Entrepreneur” is an innovative agent, that is; someone who introduces something new into the economy, a new method of production or a new product, a new source of material or new market. Schumpeter (1971) summarized the function of an entrepreneur as one who “revoluturize the pattern of production by exploiting an invention or introducing an untried technological possibility for producing a new commodity”.
What is Women Entrepreneurship?
“Women Entrepreneurship” is an act of business ownership and business creation that empowers women economically, increases their economic strength as well as positioned them in the society. This definition connotes the idea of a business enterprise owned and established by women for their economic empowerment in the society.
Singh (2012) in his definition of a woman entrepreneur brings out the innate qualities and ingenuity of an individual woman who in a bid to achieve economic independence generates employment opportunities for others. According to Singh:
A woman entrepreneur is a confident, innovative and creative woman capable of achieving economic independence individually or in collaboration generates employment opportunities for others through initiating, establishing and running an enterprise by keeping pace with her personal, family and social life.
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
In every region of the world increasing number of women are not only seeking for continued opportunity but are also asserting their rights for self-determination through women enterprise in the third world countries. women have transcended traditional hearers to become entrepreneurs. There were factors responsible for this dramatic turn around in the creation of fortunes for women in the third world. Before we examine these factors, what were the traditional roles of society in the third world?
In Africa take for instance, the case of Somali women and their emergence as entrepreneurs. Women traditionally were seen as the back bone of the family, the primary caregiver looking after the household and children. Men protects and provides for the family and acts as its decision maker and representative in the community.
Somali women had very few employment options, usually as secretaries and nurses When they married, they were typically encouraged to become house wives and to raise children. However, the civil war that brought about the collapse of the central government in 1991 was a factor that led to the emergence of women entrepreneurs in Somalia. What were the effects of the war?
- The war eroded these traditional roles
- The war forced men to seek for jobs to provide income for their families.
- The war created a situation whereby men who were either unable to protect or provide for their families ended up abandoning them.
- The war placed serious stresses upon the family system which led to an increased number of divorces.
- Women took the former positions of men as family bread winners.
Another factor that contributed to the emergence of women entrepreneurs in Somali was government support and incentives. Somali women of today are different from women of yester years. They seek social and economic independence and were prepared to take risk. They came out of the traditional boundaries of cooking and child bearing. They moved from the role of dependence to that of administrative and managerial roles where policy formation and decision making were very crucial.
Government support through legislation
Between 1960 and 1969, women’s right in Somali was not given a high priority. Men held all top political and administrative posts, while women’s right to vote or stand for elections were guaranteed in the constitution but in practice they could only vote for men and could not run for any elective office. In the 1970s, this trend began to change as women rights gained wider acknowledgement. Government introduced number of laws that brought about significant changes in women’s status. The consequences of this legislation were as follows:
- Increased access to education
- It enabled women to breakdown some of the socio-political barriers that hindered their advancement; and
- It opened up opportunities for women both in the public and the private sectors (CRD, 2004).
Another instance of the emergence of women entrepreneurship was the “Tamil” women entrepreneurs in the North East of Sri Lanka who became entrepreneurs as a result of war. Most of these women were married with children, and because they had lost their husbands to the war, they saw business as a means to an end. The women of North East Sri Lanka were victims of war as they were being killed, raped or maimed in the conflict and many were widowed. As heads of households, the women faced the uphill task of fighting to survive while providing for their children.
Their measures of success were self-fulfillment and a balance between family and work. The pertinent question to ask is: what were the characteristics of these different breed of women who were subjected to war and came out stronger than most women entrepreneurs in the society? What were the motivational factors that spurred these women to achieve some measures of success? Some entrepreneurial characteristics exhibited by the North East Sri Lankan women were as follows:
- The desire and determination to be self-employed and to overcome hurdles and solve problems
- High need for achievement
- High level of confidence
- Risk-taking behavior
- Opportunity driven and
- Profit and growth.
Finally, in conceptualizing Women Entrepreneurship, we have come to the conclusion that the emergence of “women entrepreneurs” was borne out of the historical circumstances of wars which had eroded the traditional obstacles that hindered women’s freedom. We also established the fact from the various definitions and scenarios presented that, Women entrepreneurship has a direct and positive impact on women’s social status, women rights, self-dependency, self-inspiration and the eradication of gender discrimination.
ROLE ORIENTATION AND WOMEN ENTREPRENEURIAL ASPIRATIONS
Role orientation and women entrepreneurial aspirations are topical issues which researchers sought to identify some underlying factors that motivated or encouraged individuals to engage in entrepreneurial activity. Some of these factors had direct link to individual differences in family background, education, age, sex, or personal attributes (Krueger and Brazcal, 1994; De Martino and Barboto, 2003 Sequeira et al. 2005. Zhan et al., 2005).
Shane et al, (1991) and Mueller et al. (2002) have also maintained that factors such as the general economic environment, culture, or availability of resources to start a business could motivate individual to engage in business or an enterprise. Major initiatives have been under taken globally to measure and assess the extent, type and health of entrepreneurship. In one of the most Significant annual studies carried out in 1999. the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), noted that there were wide levels of variation in entrepreneurial activities worldwide. While the average percentage of the world’s population engaged in entrepreneurial activity was about a percent for the period between 2001-2003, the range of activity in the forty countries analyzed spanned from 2 percent to 29 percent. The cause or causes of such variations has generated an ongoing contentious argument with regard to the role of divergent cultures, education and environment. The question that deserves our attention is: how does culture, education and environment impact on entrepreneurial orientation?
With regard to culture, Morris and Schindeutte (2005) agreed that “… culture matters, but it is less a precedent to entrepreneurship and is instead a complex and dynamically interacting factors”. In addition the impact of culture environmental factors. education and other entrepreneurial training are perceived to influence entrepreneurial activity.
There is the notion that not all individuals are interested in entrepreneurial activity. Recent studies have tried to explain why some individuals were more likely than others to become entrepreneurs. An unsettled question among researchers was whether entrepreneurial self-efficacy (ESE) differs between men and women. While early studies seemed to have suggested that men have higher ESE than women, more recent studies are inconclusive in their findings. However, in this lecture we shall endeavor to look for other factors to explain variations in entrepreneurial self-efficacy. What is self-efficacy?
Self-efficacy is a psychological state generally defined as possessing self-confidence in performing a specific task. Self-efficacy explains why some individuals are motivated to become entrepreneurs and others are not. Boyd and Vozikis (1994) theorized that self efficacy in performing task associated with creating a business was instrumental in motivating an individual to engage in such activities.
Another important aspect of research is that which investigated the opportunities and challenges that women faced in desiring to be entrepreneurs. Buttner and Moore, (1997) admitted that although women have made great strides in recent years, towards bridging the entrepreneurial gap, the fact still remained that women were under-represented among business owners because they lacked the same motivations as men when considering entrepreneurship as a carrier choice.
Studies undertaken by Bonnett and Furnham, (1991) and Mueller (2004) suggested that men were more likely than women to undertake an entrepreneurial venture. Differences between the sexes may be attributed to men having higher levels of confidence in their ability to perform entrepreneurial tasks such as developing a unique and visible idea for a business, raising initial capital and engaging employees. It was argued that the fundamental reason for the identified gap between men and women was that girls were socialized differently than boys which resulted to difference in carrier aspirations including the desire to be an entrepreneur (Scherer et al., 1990. Mueller 2004).
To address the above contentious issues, we need to firstly address the differences between men and women with respect to sex role socialization and its effect on career preferences. Secondly, we shall discuss the development of gender role orientation and attempt to establish how sex roles can ascertain the measurement of femininity, masculinity and androgyny. Thirdly; we shall identify factor that accounted for differences between men and women in career self-efficacy generally and entrepreneurial self-efficacy specifically. All these are discussed under the sub-headings below:
1.) Socialization of Women and Stereotype Sex Roles
Historically, men and women assumed different roles in the society. Traditionally there were jobs that have been considered more appropriate for men and others more appropriate for women (Williams and Best. 1982). These widely – held beliefs in the appropriateness of these conventional sex roles are called male and female gender stereotypes. Here, there are assumed patterned difference in the psychological characteristics of males and females. For assumed example, women are believed to be more emotional and nurturing than men, while men are believed to be more aggressive and independent than women. Williams and Best (1982) and Williams et al. (1999) asserted that when these gender stereotypes are accepted as true, definitely they would influence the assignment of men and women to different occupational roles. Further research on sex role stereotypes suggested that traits ascribed to men constituted behaviours interpreted as reflecting competence and the ability to “get things done”. These traits include:
- Assertive and
Traits traditionally ascribed to women include:
- Interpersonally sensitive and Tactful
- These traits are interpreted as reflecting warmth and expressiveness.
Implications of gender stereotypes
Occupations associated with higher levels of rationality and assertiveness are viewed as masculine occupations. Occupations that are associated with dependency, passivity, nurturing and interpersonal warmth are perceived as feminine occupations (Sinar. 1985). Examples of occupation perceived as “Masculine” include; law enforcement, engineering and architecture. Occupation perceived as “feminine” include: nursing, elementary school and flight attendance. Occupations perceived as “neutral” Include: school principal, psychologist, pharmacist and veterinary (Sinar. 1975: Couch and Sigler. 1988).
Research has found that men and women differ in their motives and preferences with regard to certain profession or occupation and self-employment. In the aspect of self employment most men and women share the desire for independence. However, they tend to differ significantly in their priorities. Generally women are more focused on striking a balance between work and family, while men are motivated to gain wealth through business ownership (Buttner and Moore, 1997. Demartino and Barbato, 2003).
2.) Gender-Role Orientation
Williams and Best (1982) defined, gender (or sex) role orientation as a personal trait that was conditioned by a traditional social system which men were expected to behave and think as men (masculine) and women were expected to think and behave as women (feminine).
A balance between sex role stereotypes. The term androgyny applies to individuals possessing both stereotypical masculine and feminine traits as outlined under the sub-topic: socialization of women and stereotype sex roles. Androgyny provides certain advantages in that androgynous people have the ability to effectively utilize behaviour that is both expressive and assertive (Jonsson and Carlson, 2000). Benefits of androgyny include:
- High self-esteem
- Achievement motivation
- Feeling of well-being; and
- More adaptive or flexible behavior
It is worthy to note that this last set of qualities, adoptability and flexibility are essential to success at performing many entrepreneurial tasks. When trying to establish a new business. an entrepreneur may face many challenges. Initial plans may change, potential investors and business partners may quit, interest rates may rise. In all these circumstances, an entrepreneur must be adaptive, flexible and resilient. Some situations call for masculine qualities such as assertiveness (eg when an outside investor is demanding too large a share of the company). On the other hand, some situations require feminine qualities such as caring and patience (e.g, when a business partner needs time away from business to deal with some pressing family problems).
4.) Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy has been defined as “…belief in one’s capabilities to mobilize the motivation. cognitive resources and courses of action needed to meet given situational demands…. (Wood and Bandura. 1989). According to Gist and Mitchell (1992), self-efficacy is based upon experience and anticipation of future obstacles. Self-efficacy affects ones beliefs whether or not specific goals are attainable. Boyd and Vozikis (1994) contended that if an individual self-efficacy is low, such individual will not act even if there is a perceived social approval for that behaviour. How useful is entrepreneurial self-efficacy?
Entrepreneurial self-efficacy can be useful in measuring the strength of individuals belief that he or she is capable of successfully performing the task of an entrepreneur. From the above definition, we have ascertained what entrepreneurial self-efficacy is. What is career self-efficacy? Is there any difference between them?
Career self-efficacy deals with individual’s self-confidence to undertake a particular career. It has to do with career development and career choices of both men and women (Lent and Hackett, 1987). The extension of self-efficacy theory to the career domain could explain how personal self-efficacy expectation might developed differently in woman and men. Career self-efficacy differences are based on differential gender-role socialization.
Hacket and Betz (1981) contended that socialization based differences between men and women in self-efficacy for traditionally male and female careers is a primary factor for explaining women’s under-representation in many male dominated careers. Having examined gender differences in self-efficacy with regard to job duties of 10 traditionally male and 10 traditionally female occupations, it was discovered that men’s self-efficacy was equal across traditionally female occupations, but women’s self-efficacy was significantly higher for traditionally female occupation and significantly lower for male-dominated occupations. (Holland; 1985 and Hackett and Betz, 1981).
From the foregoing, we have explained the differences between entrepreneurial self efficacy and career self-efficacy. The factors that accounted for these differences and which led to their development are gender role-socialization, and a number of external and internal factors such as economic circumstances, personality and values. In conclusion, we found that sex per se does not affect self-efficacy, but on the other hand, gender role orientation clearly does. While the entrepreneur generally operates in a demanding “enterprising” task environment, not all tasks are “masculine” in nature. However, some tasks require “feminine” qualities. Moreover, demands on entrepreneur change over time. Early in the business venture, the searching and planning tasks could demand some kind of creativity and innovation where a combination of masculine and feminine traits (androgyny) are needed to improve performance. Somewhere along the process, an individual (male or female) with a strong masculine orientation could be better suited for undertaking entrepreneurial tasks associated with persuading and leading others.
THE OVERVIEW OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTIONS OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Women Entrepreneurs have been making significant impact in all Segments of economy of the world. According to a recent research reported by an Australian NGO. Community Aid Abroad: “Women are the Third World’s powerhouse. They produce a staggering 60 percent of all food, run 70 percent of small-scale businesses and make up a third of the official labour force in addition to caring for families and homes. (Cited in Suriyan, 2005).
Government of India has defined women entrepreneurship as an enterprise owned and controlled by a woman having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and having at least 51% of employment generated in the enterprise to women. Women in India are no longer treated as ordinary house wives to remain at home they are enjoying the impact of globalization and making real influence not only on the domestic front but also on international sphere. Women in business are a recent phenomenon in India. Almost half of India’s population consist of women who had confined themselves to petty business and tiny cottage industries. However, they constituted a very negligible proportion of the total entrepreneurs. (Saini, 2014).
In the sixties when women in India started their entrepreneurial activities, it was one woman enterprises at home and from home for self-occupation and engagement. The number of women entrepreneurs then, was miserably, low. It was in the seventies, when the government of India brought a change in its policy objective approach to the development of women’s welfare that women entrepreneurs were given top priority for implementation of programmes under agriculture and small scale industries. With growing awareness about businesses attributed to the growth of educational level, in professional education, industrialization, urbanization and democratic values awareness, the traditional bound Indian society changed and women entrepreneurial activities tremendously shifted to engineering, electronics, and energy (Saini, 2014).
Women business owners, as we emphasized earlier, are important and growing force in the local economy; both in terms of the number of participants and gross revenues and employment they represent. Somali women owned businesses are highly increasing in the economies of almost all regions in the country. The entrepreneurial potentials of women that hitherto were hidden have been changing with the increasing role and economic status of women in the society. A variety of studies have found that across Somalia, women now run 80% of petty trade (CRD, 2004) and small businesses, as well as running their own households. This dramatic socio-economic shift demonstrated an enhanced position for women.
In Asia, women are the economic driving force. Their contributions in providing job openings in business sectors continues to rise. They are involved in enterprises at all levels as managers, entrepreneurs, owners and investors. The influence of education, technology and fast economic growth all combined to make Asian women more assertive concerning their rights. In most Asian countries, women are dominating the service sector. In Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong women in the service sector donate 61%, 68% and 77% of the respective GNP of the said countries (Suriyamu, 2000).
In Indonesia the role of women in the economic development of the country was very tremendous. Suriyanu (2000) made a graphic illustration of the historic rise of women as agents of development as stated below:
- Under colonial rule, they started with selling in the informal sector.
- In the old order government era, they combined agriculture with work in the formal sector of the economy which led to the emergence of new job openings.
- During the order new government, the formal sector of business received considerable attention of women besides the informal and agricultural sector; and
- As economic crises in the country brought a reversal of status as their husbands experienced job termination, women became the backbone of the family. The Indonesian women proved to have possessed high resilience in survival when most business enterprises owned by men went bankrupt. On the basis of this, Suriyant concluded that women contributions are in:
- Job openings
- The growth of savings, which is related to working capital
- Increase in purchasing power that trigger the growth of consumption
- Increase of business volume.
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE SUCCESS OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS IN SMALL BUSINESS
Factors contributing to success of entrepreneurs in small business are varied. Yusuf (1995) identified four most critical factors contributing to business success. These include:
- Good management skills
- Access to financing
- Personal qualities and
- Satisfactory government support.
Huck and McEwen (1991) in their study of Jamaican business owners found that marking factor is the most crucial ingredient for the success of a business. Another factor that is crucial to the success of women entrepreneurs is family emotional or instrumental support. The study on work-family conflict in Singapore revealed that family members and others support could reduce the conflict of women entrepreneurs (Lee and Choo 2001). Family support plays important role in a woman’s life. Women entrepreneurs manage their enterprises with support from family and friends, both the in provision of initial capital and capital needed for expansion. According to Brindley (2005), the main source of support and assistance for the female entrepreneurs during the start up phase came from the family and friends. This is how family and close friends play very important part in ensuring emotional stability of women entrepreneurs. Strong social ties among entrepreneurs through networking not only boost women’s attitudes with respect to business leadership but also served as avenue of exchange of ideas and financial support. Social networks among women entrepreneurs help members to have a sense of belonging. Therefore, we can establish the fact that there is a significant relationship between a strong social network and the success of women entrepreneurs.
Internal motivation: There is a significant relationship between internal motivation and the success of women entrepreneurs. A women that is internally motivated to start a business which she is interested in will first and foremost put in more effort and time in order to achieve success. Factors that motivate a women internally to become an entrepreneur are push and pull factors (Robinson, 2001).
Naser et al (2009) explained that push factor is associated with negative situation while the pull factor is attributed to positive development. They further explained that push factor may result from low income, job dissatisfaction, working hours, or even lack of job opportunities peculiar to developing countries (Dhaliwol, 1998). Orhan and Scott (2001) empirical study on push and pull factors found that women entrepreneurs in developed countries were motivated by need of achievement, while women in the developing countries were motivated by a combination of push and pull factors.
Social contribution, that a business can make to the society, individuals desire for self-fulfillment and the desire to have control and make decisions are motivating factors for women entrepreneurs to achieve success. (McClelland et al. 2005: Nearchou-Ellianas et al. 2004). In Nigeria, a study of women business owners by Ehigie and Umoren (2003) identified a high self-concept regarding their roles in business and commitment which could help women become successful entrepreneurs.
In summary, successful women entrepreneurs have made personal choices, stood up for their convictions and had courage and strength to enter into new ventures. Their success was attributed to some innate qualities.
QUALITIES OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
1.) Creative: It refers to ones ability to introduce new innovations in attempt to conquer the competitive market. An entrepreneur must device a well planned approach, adapt with need to examine the existing situation and identify entrepreneurial opportunities.
2.) Hard working nature: Creative women have the ability to work hard and to build up an enterprise.
3.) Determination: This is the element that translates dreams into reality. Entrepreneurs must have the intention to fulfill their dreams.
4.) Risk propensity: Ability and desire to take risk entails the proficiency in planning, making forecast and calculations.
5.) Profit earning capacity: A women entrepreneur has a capability to get maximum return out of invested capital.
We can observe that throughout the world, the ratio of women entrepreneurs is growing tremendously. The emergence as well as development of women entrepreneurs is quite visible and their contributions to national economies are very significant. Today the role of women entrepreneurs in economic development is inevitable because women are venturing into selected professions.
BARRIERS TO WOMEN ENTREPRENEURIAL PRACTICE
Over the last ten years, it has been recognized that small and medium enterprises have been a major force to reckon with in job creation, innovation and economic development. It is worthy to note that a good number of these SMES are owned or operated by women. Women constituted not only the majority of the work force in certain sectors of the economy, but their enterprises have also influenced the structure of different economies of the world. It has been observed that women entrepreneurship has been growing in less developed economies as an avenue for women survival and support for their families (Gordon. 2000 cited in Ayadurai, 2006). It is an observable fact that women entrepreneurship is a growing phenomena and has had a significant economic effect on all economies. However, women owned businesses face challenges and constraints that need to be addressed as well as identify some specific needs in order to help them be at par with their male counterparts. In order to achieve the above objectives, we shall do the following:
- To have a general overview of barriers to women entrepreneurial practices in specific countries of the world
- To identify general challenges of entrepreneurs and specific challenges to women entrepreneurs
- Critically examine the future prospects for development of women entrepreneurs and
- Make recommendation for provision of specific needs that would enhance women entrepreneurial practice.
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF BARRIERS TO WOMEN ENTREPRENEURIAL PRACTICES IN SPECIFIC COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD
Access to capital, information and networks are key issues facing new and growing enterprises. In Korea, women business owners experience the difficult task of financing and the effort to balance work and family. In Indonesia women entrepreneurs have difficulties in exporting their products overseas and in increasing the volume of production which are very important for competition in the global market (Gordon, 2000, cited in Ayadurai, 2006). In general, the initial challenge most common to women entrepreneurs seems to be lack of capital (Gosselin and Grise 1990 cited in Maysami et al 1999). Another challenge that is important was lack of confidence in female business owners’ abilities on the part of banks, suppliers and clients, as well as family issues. Other problem such as marketing and labour difficulties and disagreement with business colleagues which were incidental to the initial phase of the business, tension caused by dual responsibility of having to manage a business and maintaining a family was identified as the main stumbling block for female entrepreneurs (Stoner. Hatman and Arora. 1990 cited in Maysami et al 1999). In vietnam, the prevailing social and cultural gender-based inequalities and biases such as the barriers that women entrepreneurs encounter in accessing credit from banks is further magnified by their limited access to formal education, ownership of property, and social mobility (Barwa, 2003).
Other factors that obstructs women entrepreneurs access to opportunities and markets include business experience, limited knowledge of marketing strategies, weak business associations, lack of network facilities, and poor access to education and training programmes (Barwa, 2003).
In Bangladesh, financial challenges were the most common challenges that confronted women entrepreneurs. Among those badly affected were first, women in the rural areas and those in the household and unregistered sectors. Major start-up problem include, competition, obtaining quality raw materials and balancing time between business and the family (Karim, 2001).
Women entrepreneurs in Africa also faced certain constraints and barriers in their entrepreneurial practices. In Uganda, women entrepreneurs especially from rural areas suffered from lack of training and advisory service that would have enhanced their managerial and technical skills and help resolve issues associated with production, thus improving their profitability. More than 70 percent of the enterprises in Uganda employed less than 20 people as the micro and small enterprises played important role in the economic and social life of the majority of the citizens. Unfortunately, the growth and competitiveness of this important sector was hindered by lack of managerial and technical skills, weak infrastructure, difficulties in accessing loans and complicated company registration process. In Rwandan post-conflict era, the challenge women entrepreneurs were attributed to are security problems and restricted movement of the people which imposed difficulties on the supply of goods and services.
Women entrepreneurs in Morocco, were faced with the challenges of cultural constraints which inhibit the efficient conduct of their business. As cultural constraints affect managerial skills and productivity, the result is loss of productivity and income for the women. (UNIDO Document, 2005). In Kenya, women ventured into business as a means of raising the family standard of living as well as improve their status in the society and the creation of employment opportunities. However, the challenges of lack of technical skills, confidence, strong individual involvement and willingness to take risks have made women often unable to establish and sustain successful businesses (UNIDO Document, 2003). In starting and growing a business, women in Africa are also constrained in the area of obtaining loans from banks. Lack of knowledge of negotiation and lack of financial confidence to argue for what they are entitled to are some of the challenges that hinders them from obtaining loans. Hookimsing and ESSOO (2003) outlined four main obstacles that women entrepreneurs faced in Mauritius:
- The hassle of getting permit
- The lack of market
- The ability to raise capital; and
- Not being taken as serious as men.
GENERAL CHALLENGES OF ENTREPRENEURS AND SPECIFIC CHALLENGES TO WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Women entrepreneurs encounter two sets of challenges viz: general challenges of entrepreneurs and challenges specific to women entrepreneurs. Saini (2014) enumerates these challenges as follows:
1.) Problem of Finance: Women entrepreneurs suffer from shortage of finance probably because they do not generally have property on their names to use as collateral for obtaining loans from external sources. This has made it difficult for them to formulate and develop a viable business plan. Given such situations, women entrepreneurs are bound to rely on their personal savings, loans for family and/or from friends. Due to the risk of limited earnings in the start up phase, many entrepreneurs find it difficult to access significant start-up capital.
2.) Scarcity of Raw Materials: Most of the women enterprises are not only faced with the problems of scarcity of raw materials but also high price of raw material.
3.) Stiff Competition: In the absence of women supportive organization to provide the needed funds or show case their products, women entrepreneurs have to face a stiff competition from the organized sector and their male counterparts. Such competition results in liquidation of women enterprises.
4.) Lack of Education: Lack of education has made women not to be aware of business, technology and market knowledge. Also lack of education is the cause of low achievement and motivation among women. It creates problems for women in the setting up and running of business enterprises.
5.) Male Dominated Society: Male chauvinism is still predominant in Africa and in most third world countries. Women suffer from male reservations about women’s role, ability and capacity and are treated accordingly. This attitude of men towards women serves as a barrier to women’s entry into business.
6.) Low Risk-Bearing: There are countries of the third world in which women lead a protected life. They are less educated and economically dependent. All these negative factors considerably reduced their ability to bear risk involve in running a business. In addition to the above challenges, inadequate infrastructural facilities, shortage of power, high cost of production, social attitude and socio-economic constraints hampered women from entering into business.
7.) Lack of Entrepreneurial Aptitude: Women have no entrepreneurial bent of mind or the tenacity to brace up with the risks and troubles that may come up in certain businesses.
8.) Legal Formalities: The uphill task in procuring some legal documents as formalities required for running an enterprise, coupled with the corrupt practices in some government offices, and procedural delays for various licenses, electricity etc, makes it difficult for women entrepreneurs to concentrate on the smooth working of the enterprise.
FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Education is a catalyst for development, while ignorance or lack of education is an agent of retrogression. The ratio of women entrepreneurs is growing tremendously. Women entrepreneurs contribution to the economies of the world are visible and very significant. Women are entering not only selected professions but also in profession like trade, industry and engineering.
The industrial structure and enterprises in most economies of the world are undergoing a radical change. The technique of operating business is being transformed by information technology. As women own their businesses, it provides them with high sense of independence with the economic and social success they need. National business ownership portends great importance for future economic prosperity. All over the world today, women are enhancing, directing and changing the face of how business is done. Ultimately, female business must be recognized for their significant impact on the global economy.
Women should be given priority for all development programmes. Better educational facilities and schemes for women folk should be extended by government. Adequate training programmes on management skills should be provided to women community. Women should be encouraged to participate in decision-making. Vocational training should be extended to women to enable them understand the production process and management. Training on professional competence and leadership should be extended to women entrepreneurs. Marketability and profitability should be the main focus of women training activities (Saini, 2014).
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION
Entrepreneurship must be seen as a means of enhancing a women’s life in a holistic way, at a personal level, at the family level and in the context of community and society in general (Ayadurai, 2006). The following policy recommendations are outlined for the enhancement of women entrepreneurship.
- Women entrepreneurs should be treated as a separate group for all entrepreneurial development programmes.
- Institutional support system should be designed to suit the requirements of women entrepreneurs.
- Public speaking scheme or women entrepreneurial advocacy forum should be provided by government to generate support for women in business.
- Women entrepreneurs should have access to micro credit system, and enterprise credit system at local level with low rate of interest.
- Counselling through committed NGOS, psychologists managerial experts and technical personnels should be provided to existing and emerging entrepreneurs.
- State run agencies should provide adequate infrastructure in form of industrial plots and stores for the establishment of industries.
Women possess the necessary potentials determination and drive to establish and manage their own enterprise. Women need to be encouraged by the society and family members to help them succeed in their business ventures. Adequate assistance from the family, society and government can launch women entrepreneurs into the mainstream of the national economy to contribute to economic development of nations in this era of globalization.
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