Although entrepreneurship has its own challenges, women face additional obstacles that are unique to them. On paper South Africa has some great opportunities for female entrepreneurs, but in reality numerous economic, social and cultural obstacles affect women and their businesses.
According to a study conducted by Refiloe Moetsi, a North-West University (NWU) MBA graduate, sexism, sexual harassment, marital complexities, self-esteem issues and a lack of business knowledge are some of the problems women experience.
Her study titled “Exploring the unique challenges facing women entrepreneurs in Gauteng” was completed in 2020 under the supervision of Prof Stephan van der Merwe, executive education programme leader at the NWU Business School.
A challenging journey
As part of her study, Refiloe explored the unique challenges that seven businesswomen are facing.
According to the participants, two of the most demeaning challenges are sexism and sexual harassment. The participants have come across people who believe women should sleep their way up, or, if they are already successful, that they have slept their way to the top.
The study found that women were denied opportunities to showcase their capabilities and had to work harder than their male counterparts to prove their competence. The participants said they were often subjected to the perception that women are inferior to men.
It was also found that female entrepreneurs were not taken seriously and did not receive adequate support from their families, spouses and male counterparts. Marital complexities left women feeling that they had to do everything themselves. One participant said her husband was not working, so there was no financial support from his part and he was also not carrying his weight.
Inspiring the community
Although the study aimed to highlight the unique challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, Refiloe says some positive aspects on female entrepreneurship were discovered.
Most people believe that they have to find investors or lots of funding to start their businesses, but the study found that the participants did not need that much funding, as most of them had used their salaries to start their businesses. Another finding was that women attributed the success of their businesses to their self-motivation and zeal to achieve their goals.
Some of the participants indicated that due to black economic empowerment codes and preferences for black women, there are plenty of government opportunities for them.
Refiloe hopes this study will inspire members of the community who have a knack for entrepreneurship to make informed decisions, and motivate them to start their own business ventures.
She says a lot of research has been done on the challenges of female entrepreneurs, but more studies on the solutions to these problems need to be conducted.