Last Tuesday, March 8, 2022 the world celebrated International Women’s Day. We are also in the month that is dubbed Women’s History Month. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s theme was “Gender equality today, for a sustainable tomorrow,” with the trending hashtag being #breakthebias. This day provided a reminder to the world of the important roles that women play in society and encouraged them to push past barriers to their growth and contribution to the world. Entrepreneur Weekly joins the rest of the world in celebrating women by taking a look at the subject of women in entrepreneurship.
Women who have chosen the path of entrepreneurship have particular issues that are unique to their gender because of the roles they fill along with various societal and historical biases. This day along with initiatives are aimed at destroying destructive narratives concerning the capabilities of women.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2018, 60% of managers in Jamaica are women. This includes those who work for companies and own businesses. This reflects significant steps in the right direction. However, there are many opportunities for growth in equality. These statistics give a measure of hope, yet reveal that there is still much to be done in the arena of equality with specific emphasis on female entrepreneurship. Though women fill the labour force in Jamaica, statistics show that 27% are less likely to have equal opportunities.
A 2019 study on women entrepreneurship in Jamaica produced in the Asian-Pacific Journal suggested that “if enabling environment exists and is equally available to women, the gender gap regarding entrepreneurship and success rates would narrow even more and faster.” In a paper done by the World Bank in 2020, it was revealed that women-led and women-owned businesses were more negatively impacted than men by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Obstacles Women Entrepreneurs Face
There are unique challenges to being a woman entrepreneur and this list is in no way exhaustive. Women entrepreneurs can relate to the difficulty in accessing capital due to variables like gender bias and lack of investor support. According to the World Economic Forum, “a systemic lack of access to capital, credit, land, or financial products prevent women from starting a company.” Other issues that female entrepreneurs face include defying social expectations, building a support system, balancing business and family life as well as the struggle to be taken seriously.
Wisdom for Women Entrepreneurs
The unfortunate reality is that the world has not been the easiest place for women, and as much as it is uncomfortable to think about, inequality is still a real issue. Women have long had to break molds and glass ceilings to live out their full capacities. The trials of woman entrepreneurship have been navigated and overcome by successful women entrepreneurs who have chosen to not be defined by the status quo. Here are some of their responses to the unique challenges faced by women.
Felena Hanson of Hera Hub in the United States of America, a co-working space for women, noted that a way to increase access to funding for women entrepreneurs is “to get more female investors to support one another.” Women entrepreneurs can also access funding and raise capital by learning to ask for exactly what they need, as many times women can be conservative when approaching investors.
Fear of failure is always a temptation the entrepreneur faces. Women entrepreneurs have a few factors that can increase this fear but Kim Perrel, Co-Founder and CEO of 100.co says “Resilience is a muscle, so start training for setbacks now.” Failure is a part of the journey but it is important to not have it be the end of your efforts.
As it relates to balancing business and family life, it is helpful to build a solid support system of people that can help when responsibilities become conflicting. Chorvelle Johnson-Cunningham, CEO of Sagicor Bank in an interview with the Jamaica Observer noted that “staying positive and being strategic are helpful in managing work and home. It is critical to remain positive to get the desired outcome. I have also learnt to understand myself better, knowing when I need to take a “me” break and regroup to be there for others. I recharge and relax by cooking a special dinner for my husband and sitting and painting with my daughter after a long day at work, and that love rejuvenates me for what is to come.”
The journey to breaking barriers is not an easy road but throughout history, women have made incredible strides and the results have and will continue to have an indelible mark on nation building.
JBDC Empowering Women Entrepreneurs
There is much work to be done to provide women entrepreneurs with access to equal opportunities. However, local organisations like the JBDC have initiatives and resources for women entrepreneurs to develop the necessary skills and resources they need to launch and sustain successful businesses ‘From Concept to Market’. During the 2020-2021 fiscal year, 53% of JBDC clients were female. As such, the agency takes a keen interest in their development and ensures equal access to its services.
In 2016, the agency hosted the inaugural B.O.S.S LADY event which sought to create a safe space for women to discuss their challenges and gain insight from experts in areas such as health & wellness, finance, family, spirituality, relationships, self-care and personal development. Each year, the agency awards two outstanding clients, the B.O.S.S LADY OF THE YEAR and Runner-up awards. The acronym means BUILDING OPPORTUNTIIES FOR SWEET SUCCESS. The aim is to not only recognise their successes, but also that they serve as an inspiration to other female entrepreneurs. The 2021 winners were Donna-Kaye Sharpe of Chocollor Chocolate and Sonia Moodie of Portland Authentic Jerk (respectively). Both ladies demonstrated remarkable resilience during the pandemic and made strides which positively impacted their businesses.
“It is imperative that Jamaica moves in the right direction with the rest of the world, as some of our own projects come with requirements regarding the inclusion of female entrepreneurs. We have noticed this particularly in sectors traditionally dominated by males, such as agriculture and agro-processing. International sponsoring bodies are demanding that space is created for females and JBDC endorses this wholeheartedly. But JBDC has always been empowering women in these areas so compliance is not difficult. Both our 2021 awardees come from the agro-processing sector,” says Valerie Veira, Chief Executive Officer of the JBDC.
As the JBDC celebrates Women’s History Month, the agency has announced that the Virtual Biz Zone webinar will host a Women Entrepreneurs Series. The webinar is geared toward informing and engaging the Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (MSME) sector with relevant topics to support their entrepreneurial efforts. The sessions will be focused on sharing knowledge, resources and products for women entrepreneurs. The sessions are live on Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am and interested participants can register at www.jbdc.net. To watch previous sessions, visit the JBDC’s YouTube channel.
Entrepreneur Weekly encourages women to continue to push past biases and break patterns to reach their full potential.