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South Africa’s gender gap in entrepreneurship declining

Gender gap in entrepreneurship in South Africa is said to be on the decline as more women are going into formerly male-dominated industries such as engineering. Additionally, sectors where female entrepreneurs have already established a sizeable presence, such as tourism, education and the beauty industry, continue to be well-represented in the company’s investments into women-owned businesses.

This is a thought-provoking analysis from Cape Town-based Business Partners Limited (BPL).

BPL regional manager Jeremy Lang said: “The most encouraging sign of the closing gap between male and female entrepreneurs is the increasing number of women who are actively and consciously choosing entrepreneurship as their career, as opposed to those who have had entrepreneurship thrust upon them by inheritance or the necessity of having to provide for a family.”

It is believed that 41% of BPL clients are female-owned SMEs, where at least 25% of the business is owned by women, and in which the female entrepreneur is actively involved.

Further encouraging is that out of the R310 million (about US$21 million) invested in female entrepreneurs in the 2016 financial year, the majority went to businesses in the traditionally male-dominated industries of manufacturing and retail.

Lang said that if these trends continue, BPL could soon reach parity between male and female clients, a major milestone of economic transformation which he said was unthinkable a few decades ago.

Unfortunately, the decline does not mean that the gender gap in business is about to disappear for good.

The GEM South Africa 2015-2016 report shows that 7% of the female adult population in 2015 were engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA), this is in comparison to the marginally higher 11.6% reported for the male population.

Lang regrets that women still face greater difficulties due to having fewer business-orientated networks in their communities and a lack of access to female role models and business mentors.

“It is vital that South Africa’s business community and funding institutions don’t simply rely on changes in the marketplace to boost entrepreneurship among females, but that they actively and continuously empower women in the workforce,” Lang said.

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