Men have dominated the business world for centuries now, and in many ways, this is still the case. When asked to picture an entrepreneur in their minds, many people immediately picture a man in a suit sitting at the head of the boardroom table. Ask these same people to call up the first iconic entrepreneur that they can think of. They’ll likely answer with Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma, Jeff Bezos, or Bill Gates.
It is not that female entrepreneurs do not exist, or even that they are not plentiful. But rather than their male counterparts still outnumber them. However, business and economic experts in the modern age agree that this has to change. Promoting a clear focus on women’s empowerment and workplace gender parity goes a long way towards bringing about that change.
Here are the challenges women face in business, and how mitigating them can promote entrepreneurial success.
The Challenges that Female Entrepreneurs Face
Today’s society is widely considered to be a patriarchal one. The impacts of which affects the lives of women in numerous ways, both indirectly and directly. In many countries, women’s primary duties include household management, the raising of children, and the care of family members. These duties can leave working women with little to no energy and time to devote to entrepreneurial pursuits or even personal development.
Due to the nature of these gender roles, many women are averse to risk-taking, and lead protected lives by choice or by mandate. Risk is a crucial part of operating any enterprise. This risk aversion could pose challenges to women when it comes to making complex business decisions.
Financial challenges are another obstacle that businesswomen tend to face more frequently than their male counterparts. Liquidity is the fuel that fires any enterprise, regardless of its size. Many banks view women as less worthy of credit owing to their lack of property and collateral. This makes it difficult for them to secure external funds to operate their ventures.
Some women may face mobility challenges, especially in countries where it’s dangerous for them to travel and live alone in major cities. This is not to mention the pervasive self-doubt and impostor syndrome that many women face due to the patriarchal nature of society and business.
Only a slight margin of confidence and innovation separates successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful ones in the startup industry. The inclusion of both genders on an equal basis could provide startups with the edge they need to thrive on diverse perspectives and wider talent pools. Women do not necessarily struggle to reach their full potential in business due to a lack of skills or talent. Rather, they do so due to the fact that women-specific businesses and innovations have limited support and funding from an entrepreneurial standpoint.
Existing schemes that support female entrepreneurs tend to gear themselves towards women who become entrepreneurs to survive or generate a basic income. Not those who seek expansion. However, as the entrepreneurial sector contributes more towards driving job creation and alleviating unemployment rates, it is clearly imperative to ensure gender parity and women’s empowerment in business. This will give women a chance to participate economically as well.
The Case for Promoting Gender Parity in Business
According to research from McKinsey, it’s crucial to take immediate action now to increase the economic participation, empowerment, and advancement of women in business. This will help to build a robust foundation for prosperity in the future.
The research house has found that women account for 50% of the global labor supply and more than 70% of global consumer demand. Improved gender parity in education and employment leads to rapid, more inclusive growth. Women included in progress are more likely than their male peers to invest in the human capital of their families.
Although men and women are near parity in education and health in many parts of the world, McKinsey’s data shows that women are still left behind in economic opportunities and participation. Even in the most gender-equal nations, women are left behind as much as 25% more than men. On a global scale, less than half of working-age women are employed, and they earn a mere 75% as much as their male peers, even when they are just as educated and working in the same occupation. Additionally, women are over-represented in temporary, informal, and low productivity jobs. These jobs have low wages and few to no opportunities for professional advancement.
The benefits of changing this and encouraging women’s economic potential are myriad. A recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development notes that achieving gender parity in labor participation rates could increase the GDP of developed countries by more than 12% over the next two decades. This increase would be even more substantial in emerging market economies and third-world countries.
How to Promote Equality and Women’s Empowerment
Although the World Economic Forum believes that it will take more than 80 years for the world to close the economic gender gap and realize these benefits, there are still actions that encourage gender parity and encourage female entrepreneurs and workers.
McKinsey asserts that women need equal rights in inheritance and land ownership, and the same educational opportunities as men. From basic and tertiary education all the way through to postgraduate training and professional advancement courses. Furthermore, discriminatory practices in retention, recruitment, pay, benefits, and access to credit need outlawing to level the proverbial playing field.
Tax penalties that discourage women’s participation in the labor force need elimination. Replacing them with improved benefits, tax credits, and employment protections for part- and full-time workers. Spouses and families should also have access to affordable child care, early childhood education, and maternal leave. This way, women can balance their family responsibilities with their professional and entrepreneurial ambitions. In doing so, their overly busy schedules won’t take their toll.
The case of empowering and promoting women in business is also persuasive. Companies with more women in upper management and board positions can better reflect their employees and customers’ profiles and benefit from a more diverse range of viewpoints.
Optimal practices for achieving gender parity in the workplace include creating targets for hiring and retaining women and implementing affirmative searches to meet these goals. As well as assessing and reducing gender pay gaps and adjusting job structures and remuneration to provide women with more flexibility at work.
Realizing The Potential and Encouraging It
Excluding 50% of the global workforce means that the business world can effectively only realize half of its economic potential. Business leaders and lawmakers should act immediately to enhance women’s participation, empowerment, and advancement in the workforce and education.
This will result in more rapid, inclusive, and holistic growth for businesses and their staff forces. Not only are women’s rights essential to ensuring their wellbeing, but they also play a crucial role in ensuring ongoing economic growth and prosperity in an ever-changing world.