‘Women are an untapped source of innovation’
However, only about 18.8% of small and medium enterprise (SME) owners in South Africa are women. This is according to the recent MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, which reveals that women remain grossly under-represented among the ranks of entrepreneurs.
Speaking in light of the UN Commission on the Status of Women that is under way in New York, Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year competition sponsored by Sanlam and business/partners, said that despite female involvement in the SME sector being a known key contributor to economic growth, as well as job creation in South Africa, many women still face major barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential.
“There is no question that women entrepreneurs play an increasingly important role in driving South Africa forward - both socially and economically.
“Many of the country’s aspiring female entrepreneurs, however, remain constrained by cultural, social and economic barriers. Female entrepreneurs signify a vast untapped source of innovation, job creation and economic growth in South Africa.”
To break down these barriers and unlock the potential economic boost possessed by South African women, Mjadu said both the public and private sectors needed to band together in order to create an environment where women entrepreneurs feel well-supported in terms of starting and growing their businesses and accessing markets.
“We remain encouraged by the ever-increasing number of female entrepreneurs entering the competition, and over the past six years, we have seen 41 female entrepreneurs named finalists in the annual competition (out of 90 finalists), with 17 being named winners (out of 28 winners).
“This year, we are determined to continue uncovering and celebrating many more women who - to a large extent - remain unsung heroes of their communities.”