Barriers facing female entrepreneurs : a study in the Gauteng Province, South Africa
Sex discrimination against women | Female entrepreneurs
Everywhere in the world, an increasing number of female entrepreneurs are becoming the pillars of economic growth and development. This exploratory research sought to investigate the barriers facing female entrepreneurs and to establish whether these barriers are exacerbated for women because of their gender. It focuses on the experiences and perceptions of female entrepreneurs in the urban formal sector of the Gauteng area of South Africa. Data for the study was gathered by a survey through questionnaires administered to 93 female entrepreneurs, the majority of whom were registered with either the South African Business Women's Association or The South African Women's Network. The literature review identified differences in female and male entrepreneurship related to personal demographics, business demographics and support structures. These differences could be explained by the barriers that female entrepreneurs face in their endeavours. The barriers are discussed under five main categories: social and cultural barriers, infrastructural barriers, educational and occupational barriers, role barriers, and behavioural barriers. Upon investigating these barriers amongst female entrepreneurs, results revealed that female entrepreneurs have to contend with socio-cultural, political, structural, economics, legal and personal barriers compared to men when they contemplate entrepreneurship. Although some barriers may be the same as those experienced by male entrepreneurs, the female entrepreneurs in this study perceived that they did indeed experience barriers that were specific to female entrepreneurs and that some barriers were exacerbated for them because of their gender. Thus, even if the Constitution of South Africa states that women and men have equal rights and the same entitlements for engaging in a career in society, reality proves that the experiences of female entrepreneurs in Gauteng are contrary to this - the current situation indicates that female entrepreneurship in Gauteng serves as a 'glass ceiling' for female entrepreneurial ambitions. Understanding the barriers facing female entrepreneurs can be beneficial to: females currently engaged in entrepreneurship, aspiring and emerging female entrepreneurs, and policy makers. This understanding can lead to more supportive policies and programmes for female entrepreneurs. Society, government, policy makers and women themselves thus need to work together to bring about changes required towards female entrepreneurs.