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More support needed for female entrepreneurs

by AKANI CHAUKE 
JOHANNESBURG – WHILE South Africa has made significant advances to drive gender equality through laws and regulations, there is still more to be done.

Huge gaps remain.

That is the prevailing sentiment as Africa’s most advanced economy joined the globe in commemorating International Women’s Day.

“The conversation about gender equality has been pushed to the forefront in recent years, sparking positive changes across multiple industries and igniting greater awareness about gender bias. But despite these improvements, huge gaps remain,” said Natasha Reuben, Head of Transformation, Dell Technologies South Africa.

A McKinsey study titled “COVID-19 and gender equality” showed that women were more vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic effects, with female job loss rates about 1,8 times higher than male job rates globally.

“Additionally, female jobs were more at risk than male ones due to disproportionate representation of women in sectors negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis,” Reuben stated.

She noted that better gender balance in organisations makes good business sense, with companies that have gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to have above-average financial returns.

That is according to market research company Forrester.

Reuben said gender parity was not a “zero-sum game” where one group wins and the other loses.

She nonetheless hailed South African laws and regulations to attain parity.

“It’s a journey and if we work together, we can help transform the region’s gender parity landscape for the better,” Reuben said.

With women accounting for only 19,4 percent of business owners in South Africa, a change is surely needed, desperately.

One of these female business owners is Toni Carroll, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of luxury nutricosmetic brand My Beauty Luv.

Back in 2014 she started one of the first online professional haircare stores in South Africa.

The store, ‘Hair Today Hair Tomorrow’, was started with the aim of providing quality, professional-grade products to the growing online shopping community.

My Beauty Luv brand produces a range of professional-grade beauty supplements that target the most sought-after areas of wellness: anti-ageing, longevity, and vitality.

As a female entrepreneur, Carroll has learnt vital lessons she would like to share with other women considering becoming business owners.

“Unfortunately, you will encounter chauvinism and when you do try stand up for yourself you are deemed to be aggressive,” Carroll said.

“Regardless, women entrepreneurs still need to assert themselves and help build other women up. It is only by supporting each other that we can #BreakTheBias,” she added.

To mark International Women’s Day, mobile operator, Vodacom pledged to support and empower women business owners who have joined more than 70 Mini Programme partners on the VodaPay super app.

“We are so excited to see the calibre of female entrepreneurs who are jumping onto this digital highway,” said Mariam Cassim, Chief Executive Officer of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services.

Hannah Lavery, the Cape Town-based designer, is one of these female fashion entrepreneurs who joined the VodaPay family.

“While we love offering a physical in-store experience, we believe there is also tremendous value in e-commerce channels, particularly in giving customers convenient access to our clothing line whether they prefer to visit a physical retail outlet or not,” Lavery said.

Michelle Ludek, another fashion designer whose feminine, flattering, and fun clothing has become a mainstay brand in South Africa, has also taken the opportunity to grow her business with the support of VodaPay.

“As a small business owner, the day-to-day pressure of running your own enterprise in our current climate is more stressful than usual,” she said.

International Women’s Day is celebrated yearly on March 8.

– CAJ News

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