Patterns of Businesses Owned by Womens

Apart from the general diversity in entrepreneurial practices, there are also significant differences in the characteristics of male- and female- owned businesses. Overall, women-owned businesses tend to be smaller, cluster in consumer-oriented sectors and generate lower sales turnover than those owned by men. Occupational segregation reinforces the concentration of women-owned enterprises in the services sector and jeopardizes women’s prospects as entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors.
Women generally employ a smaller capital base than men to start their businesses, tend to have lower ratios of debt financing, and are much less likely to use angel funds or venture capital.
Recent studies indicate that women entrepreneurs are assembling themselves into groups or confederacies. The reason behind this pattern is to enable them form solid networks, where members can collectively pool resources and expertise together.
In the US, even though many female entrepreneurs have home-based and service-related businesses, they are eager to embrace technology. Increasing numbers of women are venturing into the once male-dominated fields of construction, transportation, communication, design, manufacturing, architecture and agribusiness. The retail industry remains, by far, the largest field of women enterprise.

Women business networks have also been found to be generous in philanthropy. Although their businesses tend to grow more slowly than those owned by men, women- owned businesses have a higher survival rate than US businesses overall survival rate. Female entrepreneurs today are more likely than ever to be highly educated and to have managerial experience in the industries in which they start their companies.
In a recent study on Africa, it was said that the continent has enormous unexploited potentials, especially the potential of women. It pointed out that women are Africa’s hidden growth reserve, providing most of the region’s labour but their productivity is hampered by widespread inequality in education as well as unequal access to land and productive output. The economic importance of women in Africa was reinforced by the Africa Commission Report which noted that “all evidence agree that women make a greater contribution to economic life than their men folk”
Women are said to be prevented from running competitive businesses by their relatively low education and skills level in many African nations. This generally limits their access to the various support services. At the same time, the multiple roles of women in the family put a limit on their risk taking tendencies. In many African countries, women spend their income on the household, particularly on food and education for their children. Therefore many are afraid to invest their limited funds into a business for fear of failure. This is in contrast with the profile of women in the more economically advanced countries as earlier highlighted.
Entrepreneurial activities of women are further hampered by traditional/cultural constraints that often tend to be specifically imposed on women in our societies. For example, in most African societies/communities, women’s access to formal financial resources can be jeopardized by the requirements that their husbands sign for loan approval for their wives. Also daughters are often given smaller inheritances than sons; and in many cases daughters cannot inherit land from their father’s clan.

Although equality of all citizens is guaranteed by the constitution of most countries, in reality, women are often considered inferior to men. Traditionally, the women are stereotypical seen and expected to do household chores and are not expected to venture into independent economic activities. As a consequence of these traditions, women find it difficult to break away from the norm and resolve to take charge of their lives and decide to start their own businesses.
In developing countries most women find it more convenient to operate their businesses in the informal sector, which is poorly captured in available data and statistics. In Africa, most working women are not “formal” entrepreneurs but are rather self-employed. The informal sector is often the entry point into the private sector. Barriers to formalizing a business include the lengthy and complex business registration, incorporation, and licensing practices.
Until recently, women entrepreneurs faced strong barriers to enterprise development in the prevailing laws and regulations. Obtaining licenses and registering the business on their own name were a nightmare. Through the United Nations conferences on women and from social pressures from local civil society groups, the legal and policy frame work is improving, yet there is much to be done to ensure a level playing ground for women.
In addition, there is the dearth of organization and networks, both among women themselves, and between women and existing business associations and support institutions. This is partly because women are often too shy to initiate one or society does not encourage such activities. However, networking is very useful to access information, markets and raw materials through bulk purchase (taking advantage of the economy of scale). It also permits the eventual formation of clusters and a more organized relationship with support institutions.
Gender awareness is important for policy makers and decision makers at all levels of public and private institutions. The process of policy formulation has to incorporate gender mainstreaming strategies. Ministries in charge of women affairs, SMEs development, NGOs, women’s organizations and technical cooperation programmes all have important roles to play in emphasizing gender issues and creating a more enabling environment for women in enterprise.


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