I visited London last week and was proud to host two breakfast meetings with women entrepreneurs to discuss ways of promoting women-owned businesses across the globe.
One of the most interesting issues we discussed revolved around what special obstacles women entrepreneurs face in trying to start and build a business. The consensus was that securing finance is at top of the list. Obtaining financing for their enterprises has always been, and continues to be, more difficult for women than men. The Venture Capital world is still, unfortunately, a boys’ club in many respects, something that must change if we are to unlock the potential of women-owned small and medium enterprises.
I was struck by how many of the participants had similar stories. Many agreed that the reason they’d become entrepreneurs in the first place was because they felt blocked in their careers – overlooked for promotions in favor of men. There was mobility up to a certain level, including a mentorship scheme for new employees in one of the companies mentioned, but nothing at the manager or partnership level. Clearly, most companies are still not doing enough to support their talented women employees.
We also discussed the importance of knowing that there’s a career path; knowing that if you work hard you can get to where you want to be, and the importance of other women serving as role models. Several of our guests noted a dearth of success stories in this regard.
FINCA works with female entrepreneurs around the globe in some of the world’s poorest countries. Early on in our journey, it became clear to us that women and mothers held the key to the success of their children finding pathways out of poverty. They were often more credit worthy than the men, and did a better job of managing the family budget and remaining current with loan repayments. Finally, any excess income that didn’t get re-invested in the business went towards the children’s needs: better nutrition, clothing, and school fees.
One of the most exciting outcomes of these events was a commitment on the part of the participants, most of whom were meeting for the first time, to stay in contact with each other and explore ways to promote the advancement of women-owned businesses worldwide. I was happy to play a catalytic role in this, and would like to thank all those inspirational women for attending. I hope to meet you all again soon.
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