Compared with their counterparts in France, the UK, Japan and Hong Kong, South African women have a stronger entrepreneurial spirit

According to a study done by Maison Veuve Clicquot on female entrepreneurship around the world, 78% of South African women have entrepreneurial aspirations. However, the Veuve Clicquot Barometer, released in October, also found that women entrepreneurs in the country face numerous mental and structural challenges that prevent them from fulfilling their ambitions. These include the need for more visible icons and real support and assistance.

One of the biggest challenges women face is not being taken seriously enough. Although the country has made great strides in ensuring that there’s gender equality, the report found that women entrepreneurs still don’t feel truly respected.

“Sixty-nine percent of South African female entrepreneurs feel they need to show more authority than men in order to be respected (compared with 72% in France, 63% in the UK, 54% in Japan and 71% in Hong Kong). And when they do so, the behaviour is badly perceived: 56% of South African female entrepreneurs believe that female entrepreneurs are considered to be too bossy,” the report noted.

Another big hurdle is access to funding. Although this is a big challenge for most entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, over half of the women interviewed believed that men were regarded as more credible when asking for funding for their business ventures.

The solution is changing the way women entrepreneurs are perceived. This can be done “by providing new frames of reference to rising generations, by acting purposefully, whether one is male or female”, the report found.

While the fight for equality has become a global issue, women the world over are still doing a disproportionate amount of invisible unpaid labour. A conservative estimation by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that women “perform an average of 4,5 hours or more of free work every day”, including the task of caring for the physical and emotional needs of their families.

“South African women seem to be slightly more pragmatic than their male counterparts, as they clearly picture the impact of entrepreneurship on their family life and anticipate the difficulty of balancing work and home,” the study noted.

Speaking at the launch of the Veuve Clicquot Barometer in Johannesburg, Johanna Mukoki, founder of Travel With Flair, noted the importance of striking a balance between full-time entrepreneurship and family life. “Focus on the fact that a happy mom is a mom who’s living her full potential and her best life,” she told the attendees.

The solutions to these problems include the creation of sustainable networks for women to access mentorship, training and inspiration, the report noted.

Thato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka Group, also offered advice on how to overcome the trials faced by women entrepreneurs.

“Do you know what you’re running towards? Do you have the clarity, personal authority and focus to build what you need to build? Finally, what does success look like for you? Because if you aren’t aligning your personal values with your business, the challenges will become insurmountable,” she said.

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