Young fe­males sorely needed

WIDE­SPREAD CUL­TURE SHIFT

The Citizen (KZN) - - BUSINESS - Gugu Mjadu and Phillipa Geard

South Africa has low fe­male en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity with fe­male en­trepreneurs ac­count­ing for only 31% of all en­trepreneurs in the coun­try. Fur­ther­more, data from the most re­cent Global En­trepreneur­ship Mon­i­tor for South Africa shows that the ra­tio of women in­volved in early-stage en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity in 2017 com­pared to that of their male coun­ter­parts, was at 0.69 – a con­cern­ing but neg­li­gi­ble 0.05 de­cline since 2016.

The low fe­male en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity is a wor­ri­some statis­tic, as the coun­try’s econ­omy begs for grow­ing lev­els of en­trepreneur­ship across the board.

There needs to be a wide­spread cul­ture shift when it comes to en­trepreneur­ship in South Africa. In ad­di­tion to boost­ing over­all lev­els of en­trepreneur­ship, greater fo­cus must be placed on en­cour­ag­ing more women to en­ter this ca­reer path.

No longer should en­trepreneur­ship be a means to an end; it should be­come a ca­reer as­pi­ra­tion that young chil­dren, and girls in par­tic­u­lar, dream of. Imag­ine if our young girls dreamt of be­com­ing en­trepreneurs in the same way that they dream of be­com­ing doc­tors, lawyers or as­tro­nauts.

Tak­ing a leaf from the 16-year suc­cess of the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work cam­paign – the pri­vate sec­tor should heed the call to es­tab­lish sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives – with the aim of teach­ing young girls the busi­ness of en­trepreneur­ship from an early age. Own­ers of small busi­nesses could also use the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work cam­paign to host young girls and thus ex­pose them to the world of en­trepreneur­ship.

A start­ing point would be to in­clude ba­sic en­tre­pre­neur­ial ed­u­ca­tion (like idea gen­er­a­tion, the ba­sics of busi­ness plan writ­ing, fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, mar­ket­ing and cus­tomer service to name a few key prin­ci­ples) at pri­mary-school lev­els and con­tin­u­ing through­out the school years into ter­tiary stud­ies.

Em­pow­er­ing young girls to be en­trepreneurs is vi­tal in a coun­try like South Africa where the for­mal econ­omy can­not ab­sorb the current amount of avail­able labour. To teach young peo­ple about be­com­ing job creators, rather than seek­ers, is a nec­es­sary mind-shift for so many.

Be­ing a woman en­tre­pre­neur is also a pow­er­ful tool in forg­ing one’s own des­tiny. Not only does en­trepreneur­ship al­low a woman to be­come fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent, it allows her the op­por­tu­nity to make an im­pact in the lives of oth­ers through job cre­ation and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. This can have a pro­found im­pact on self-con­fi­dence, self-worth and help­ing to build a healthy so­ci­ety.

Hav­ing fe­male en­tre­pre­neur role mod­els in the home can also con­trib­ute to in­creas­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity in South Africa for both girl and boy chil­dren, as chil­dren gen­er­ally look up to their par­ents for role mod­el­ling. Sup­port­ing this in part is re­search from Girl­guid­ing UK that re­veals that girls looked up to their moth­ers for ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions.

Teach­ing young girls that be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur is fea­si­ble, ex­cit­ing, and a real pos­si­bil­ity, can change the way they think about their fu­tures and their role in so­ci­ety. This in it­self has a pro­found im­pact on the type of women we raise as South Africans – a woman who is fear­less, con­fi­dent and pas­sion­ate about grow­ing our coun­try.

Com­pe­ti­tion fi­nal­ists – Bev­erly Gumbi of Isivuno Con­tain­ers and Chris­tine Gel­dart of Mar­ven Equip­ment share in these sen­ti­ments.

As suc­cess­ful women en­trepreneurs, Gumbi and Gel­dart, be­lieve that en­trepreneur­ship cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties for South African women to em­power oth­ers – be it through job cre­ation, act­ing as busi­ness role-mod­els and men­tors, or pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties like in­tern­ships and ap­pren­tice­ships. This, they be­lieve, is es­sen­tial for bring­ing about broader economic progress in South Africa.

Gugu Mjadu is spokesper­son for the San­lam 2018 En­tre­pre­neur of the Year and Philippa Geard is the owner and founder of Re­cruit­my­mom.co.za and fi­nal­ist in the San­lam 2018 En­tre­pre­neur of the Year.

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