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By Tshehla Cornelius Koteli

Digital Business Writer

No space at the table for women entrepreneurs

Even in two-parent homes, there is usually a subtle – often sub-conscious – belief that the women will look after the children.

As South Africa deals with the growing rate of unemployment, statistics show only a small percentage of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are led by women.

Linda McClure, chief operating officer at Raizcorp said most of Africa has the highest growth rate of female-ran businesses, however, this market is still inaccessible to most women in South Africa.  

Women are still household manager

McClure said there is not any space being made at the table for women entrepreneurs. The problem starts when women are still expected to keep their households running, take care of the children while men are free to run businesses. She said this can be found in two-parent homes, where the belief that women must look after the children still exists.

In most households, the oldest daughter often takes the role of being a childminder and “deputy-mother” from a young age. She believes the role of being a “household manager” can be used to advance women in the business-world.

Because of the role, women already have useful skills such as managing budgets, facilities, logistics, time, calendars and even staff.

“I’d go so far as to say that managing a household is like managing a small business.”

ALSO READ: Here’s why women battle in business

Women in business

She said it is concerning that only 38% of SMEs are owned by women and led in the country. It is necessary to give young women the tools to develop entrepreneurial skills, which will ultimately solve the youth unemployment crisis.

“The important contribution that women could make in various sectors continues to be underestimated, especially in less industrialised countries.”

Women entrepreneurs face challenges not shared by their male counterparts. Challenges most women in business face include having fewer assets, access to less capital, fewer business-orientated networks, and a lower status in often-patriarchal society.

“The lion’s share of opportunities available in the market today are still reserved largely for male and youth-owned businesses.”

McClure is of the view most women start business because they do not have a choice, while men start businesses for various reasons such as vision, opportunity, flexibility, passion.

“To grow the rate of women entrepreneurship, women must be given entrepreneurial skills to run and grow sustainable and profitable businesses, which will create employment.

ALSO READ: Beyond headlines: The woes of being a woman

SMEs contribution

SMEs play a vital role in the country’s economy, as it contributes at least 40% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Small businesses hold the key to transforming the country’s economy and unemployment.”

She said it is estimated that if women started businesses at the same rate as men, the global GDP might increase by $28 trillion (R508 trillion) by 2025.

“If we can do more to give our women entrepreneurs the right tools and knowledge, we can create a diverse, vibrant small business landscape that can change the fortunes of entire communities.”

Women struggle to find jobs

South Africa’s latest unemployment numbers have shown that youth between the ages of 15 and 34 are the most vulnerable in the job market. Still, it is clear, though, that the struggle continues for many South African women – specifically in small business and entrepreneurship.

According to Statistics South Africa, women exhibit high levels of unemployment alongside lower absorption and labour force participation rates compared to males. Young women often encounter challenges securing decent employment compared to their male counterparts.

Stats SA said young women display heightened vulnerability in the labour market when compared to young men. In 2024, the absorption rate of young men was 31.9%, outpacing young women, whose rate stood at 24.2%. The unemployment rate among young females was estimated at 49.4% in 2024.

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