Do you know many female entrepreneurs or business owners? Are you a women that is considering becoming a business owner yourself?
A recent report from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation has found that while women often turn to entrepreneurship over climbing the corporate ladder, there are often remaining gender related constraints. As anyone that has started their own business will tell you, it’s hard. You’re working 25 hours a day, 8 days a week as it is, however the APEC report has found a number of other barriers that apply only to women.
A key example laid out by the report is restrictions surrounding women’s access to capital. Across the Asian pacific region restrictive inheritance laws in some countries for example, practically prevent women from using land capital as collateral when applying for loans. In some economies that make up APEC, the report suggests that women are not allowed to apply for a loan without authorisation from their husband. Though this is usually not the case in developed economies I’ve mentioned before my mother is an enduring inspiration to me. In fact, she was one of the first women to get a loan in Australia without a man co-signing many years ago.
Despite the fact that SMEs account for a large proportion of enterprises across APEC, on average 37% of these SMEs are owned by women (2011). It’s also interesting to note that Australia is below the APEC average in female owned SMEs with Phillipines leading the way at 64%. According to the Mckinley global institute, advancement of women’s equality, and involvement in business could contribute up to 12 trillion to the global GDP and growth.
While access to capital is a key source of frustration there are also other issues tied up in
social and cultural norms that result in women having less time to devote to business because they need to engage with household tasks such as childcare. Affordability of childcare is a key here, but so is the presumption of the mother to take care of these duties. In Australia, our issue isn’t that these things are demanded of women as they might be in other APEC nations. I don’t believe those expectations, in my experience, to have been as direct as that – rather its a much more subtle, and arguably more insidious infection of expectation and necessity. The driving forces behind much of our behaviour, not always for our best.
It’s for this reason I strongly support initiatives to help women in small business. It’s not enough to say we’re all equal now, so let’s get on with it. There’s another step to create opportunity that in some cases is missing. The responsibility to correct this imbalance rests with all of us – Government at multiple levels creating positive initiatives and policies, the private sector creating inclusive spaces (rather than non-inclusive ones) and investment opportunity, and our community and individuals; who can help to carry the weight of starting a small and medium enterprise.