A review of the challenges militating against women entrepreneurship in developing nations
Particularly in developing nations, the development of women entrepreneurship has recently gained the attention of practitioners, policy makers, and even more importantly, academics. This is a trend consequent upon the fact women's entrepreneurship is now considered a powerful driver of economic growth and development, as well as the eradication of poverty. However, regardless of the positive impact of women entrepreneurs, they face enormous challenges which still characterise the world of business as a “man’s world”. In light of this context, this study reviews the available literature to explore the challenges facing women entrepreneurs in developing nations, with a view to offering recommendations towards tackling them.
The review identifies four key challenges facing women entrepreneurs in developing countries:
Lack of entrepreneurial role models: the literature shows a clear correlation between the presence of role models, and the development of entrepreneurial competence in individuals. Where women make up a minority of entrepreneurs, something common in developing countries, the lack of cultural exposure inhibits the motivation and acceptance of women entrepreneurs.
Lack of work experience: for cultural and religious reasons, women in developing countries suffer a disproportionate paucity in the necessary skills, education, and experience required to be a successful entrepreneur.
Lack of relevant social networks and societal positions: networks, and the level of support and expertise they can provide, are crucial for entrepreneurial success. However, women in developing nations generally have lower social positions than men, and their networks are usually a reflection of personal and traditional circles, rather than being useful for business.
Lack of capital assets: women’s position in developing nation societies often inhibit their ability to work full-time, or build a career. Yet building adequate financial and knowledge assets is a key requirement for starting a business, and something women struggle to do when unfairly burdened by family obligations.
Next, the authors make policy recommendations aimed at overcoming these barriers to women entrepreneurs in developing countries:
Giving prominence to women entrepreneurs: it is recommended that governments establish offices for women entrepreneurs through which knowledge and skills can be created and disseminated, and role models can be promoted.
Increased women participation in the labour force: ensuring the fair and equal treatment of women in the workplace, and providing affordable childcare to all mothers, are the two most important factors to implement for women to have the chance to build their financial and knowledge assets.
Promoting women entrepreneur networks: the development of national and international women entrepreneur networks is pivotal to the advancement of women entrepreneurship in developing nations, as they facilitate cooperation and partnerships that enhance increased women entrepreneurial activities. Additionally, government policies should accommodate more women in political positions.
Periodic evaluation of SME policies on the success of women’s entrepreneurship: highlighting the policies that should be retained, and how to improve them for enhanced effectiveness, is key for the development of women entrepreneurship in developing nations.
The study concludes that there is a need to create an enabling environment to motivate women towards entrepreneurial related behaviour. Women should have access to resources and markets as well as actual ownership and control of businesses, but there is no one-time remedy that will sufficiently combat the multifaceted challenges that impede the development of women's entrepreneurship. Thus, economic policies and legal structures are advocated to tackle the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in developing nations, and policy makers are encouraged to develop strategic policies and programmes geared at capacity building for women entrepreneurs. This is crucial not only for women, but for the good of all, as there is a direct relationship between women’s participation in entrepreneurial activities, and a country’s overall economic development.