South African women are keen to become entrepreneurs

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THE Veuve Clicquot International Women Entrepreneur Barometer Study has found that 54 percent of South African women considered themselves entrepreneurs, registering the highest level of women entrepreneurship among 17 countries measured.

The study found that 90 percent of South African women entrepreneurs believed that, in order to succeed, they needed the support of a network of women entrepreneurs.

About 59 percent of women entrepreneurs reported growing more confident in their business dealings, and 63 percent said they were more professionally bold than before the Covid-19 crisis.

Women increasingly choose entrepreneurship for financial reasons. The study found 31 percent of women and 28 percent of men rated money as the top benefit of being an entrepreneur, and it was on the rise.

More than half of women and only 32 percent of men believed it was riskier for women to build a business, and believe that the risks of entrepreneurship outweigh the benefits, but start a business regardless.

However, a YPO, Financial Times and UN Women HeForShe Business Leader Survey in March found that although gender diversity in business was getting better – with close to 60 percent of global chief executives believing that their organisations were more gender-diverse than they were five years ago – female leaders faced significant challenges, as their path to the top took longer and was stymied by societal expectations, unconscious bias and legacy gender roles.

The survey also found that 51 percent of male respondents knew early in their careers that they wanted to become chief executives, compared with only one-third of female respondents.

According to the survey’s respondents, it took women, on average, two years longer to reach chief executive level than it did men – 33.6 years for men and 35.4 years for women.

The gender of those at the helm clearly mattered in the effort to further gender equality overall in a business.

Women-led businesses reported more female diversity on their boards, in senior management and in their organisations.

Female chief executives reported that 43 percent of their senior management was female, versus 26 percent at male-run businesses.

At the organisation level, 48 percent of the workforce was female at women-led companies, while 37 percent of the workforce was female at male-run companies.

Female chief executives were more likely to face “balancing respect with likeability” (30 percent) and “overcoming other’s preconceptions about me” (20 percent) than their male counterparts. In contrast, only 9 percent of male chief executives have had to overcome preconceptions.

When asked about “cultural expectations” related to gender, a mere 2 percent of male business leaders responded that they faced this obstacle compared to almost half, 47 percent, of female business leader respondents.

Seventy-three percent of female respondents, compared with 42 percent of male respondents, took leave or sacrificed career advancement because of family needs.

Sixty percent of female chief executives had taken maternity leave, whereas only 13 percent of male chief executives had taken paternity leave.

The biggest challenges all global leaders currently faced were “navigating and communicating constant change” (50 percent), “staying ahead of the competition” (47 percent) and “competing priorities” (43 percent). “Balancing work/life responsibilities” was another major challenge for both male respondents (42 percent) and female respondents (45 percent).

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