When it comes to living our best lives, it is evident that we need a stable economy that provides work and economic opportunity for all South Africans. In order to add value, the needs which are to be served have to be clearly identified, otherwise one ends up with little more than distractions and platitudes.
Nor can the ideals of a thriving economy be realised without the successful participation of the majority of South Africans. More than half of South Africa’s population is female, yet only 31% of entrepreneurs are female. Even more problematic is that of those who remain in business, most never grow beyond solopreneur businesses. In line with findings in South Africa, only 6.3% of women-led SMEs have more than 10 employees, while a mere 18% of women-led businesses are older than 10 years (Facebook Survey Small Business). If that is not sufficiently compelling, consider the fact that over the next decade women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the US and will become the beneficiaries of the largest transfer of wealth in US history (Source: MediaPost, 9 April 2013).
What would it mean for our economy if we could find ways to release the potential of female entrepreneurs? From my experience as a business coach working with a large variety of businesses across many different sectors, I believe the following could be a good start:
- Women should not place themselves in a position where they are literally left holding the baby. They need to ensure that they use every educational opportunity available to prosper in every area of their lives.
- Men need to step up to their share of the domestic responsibilities and women need to stop settling for anything less.
- Women need to build stronger business networks and men need to include them in their ‘Old Boys Clubs’—perish the thought).
- Women need to stop playing small and realise that food kitchens and jumble sales are not the only way to make a difference.
- Women need to overcome their own lack of assertiveness and build their knowledge and confidence to excel in business.
- Capital and assets need to be made available and disproportional inheritance to male offsprings should simply be illegal—contra bonos mores (harmful to the moral welfare of society).
- Women need to take a few more risks and men need to become better at supporting women. (Hint: Find out what support they need, before you don your ‘Mr. Fix‑It’ hat, as John Grey suggests in his book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.)
- Employers need to offer women equal pay as their male counterparts and women need to learn to negotiate.
Do we really need a National Women’s Day? Or do we need men and women who can step up to the challenge and do the unordinary, the atypical? So that our daughters and granddaughters could be paid market‑related salaries; be supported in their households by an equitable sharing of chores and responsibilities; unlock their full economic potential; and become part of the solution that is so desperately needed in our beautiful country.
Shirley Pearson is a business coach with ActionCOACH iNala. She has worked with innumerable business owners to ensure that their businesses are more profitable and both sustainable and scalable. If you would like to discuss your challenges as a female business owner with Shirley, feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/businesscoachdurban/.