In this post, we examine traditional factors affecting women’s choice of business activity but on the flip side challenge these notions which tend to be stereotypes and some are changing or have changed. Women are certainly more involved in enterprising across all sectors and have become pioneers in some fields.
FACTORS AFFECTING WOMEN’S CHOICE OF BUSINESS ACTIVITY
This article briefly examines factors affecting women’s choice of business activity as well as implications of those choices.
1. Reproductive role
They choose activities that make it easy to combine work with their household responsibilities. They choose activities that complement household needs. This is illustrated practically as most women tend to be involved in marketing food stuffs, agricultural produce, herbally-concocted medicine, poultry keeping, and vegetable farming among other activities.
Another argument is that since the bulk of labor that sustains life in many a household is done by women, the part that is played by women, at least the commercial part is enhanced through poverty reduction initiatives such as microfinance (lending and access to credit). However, in some societies, the lines that distinguish gender roles are becoming blurred. We are seeing mushrooming women traders in many fields of business. Women’s choice of business activity is not as strongly linked to gender productivity as before.
2. Limited knowledge/skills
They choose activities which utilize the skills they have mastered as part of their socialization process, such as food processing, food vending and personal care. This may have been true a decade or so ago and is still true for at least most middle aged women of the previous generation but the dynamics are gradually changing towards well educated and highly proficient women in industries such as marketing, client services, fashion, and media among others.
The trend has and continues to be reversed further by initiatives to increase the literacy rates among women, bridge the divide created by educating the boy over the girl, training and support for innovations done by women such as in food processing, medicine, agriculture, trade and creating markets for their products and/or services.
3. Limited initial capital
They choose activities which require minimum initial investment. Again, this for the most part has been the result of a decades long disproportionate split of gender roles which spilled over into economic activities. However, this trend is changing with more households realizing the power of co-‘working’, co-‘sharing’, co-‘parenting’, etc.
More women are delving into capital intensive projects and with equal opportunity initiatives, the tide is turning. Furthermore, microfinance has enabled increased access to seed capital for small-scale traders with less burdensome collateral requirements.
4. Limited access to credit for working capital
They choose activities for which they can easily get credit from suppliers (e.g. shops will provide food items on credit to food vendors) or where customers pay in advance (such as tailoring). This is also changing and while it remains true for some, women have evolved creating their own societies to pool together funds and other resources for mutual benefits. For instance, associations of farmers are common among women. MFIs and banks focused on women development are now common.
5. Limited capacity to absorb consequences of failure
They choose activities for which there is a ready, tested and large market. This is a bit of a stereotype in my opinion; however, traditionally, men have been more of the risk takers and therefore more inclined to go for the “go big” or “go bust” opportunities. However, lately, there are a lot more all-or-nothing investments being made by women. Women are pursuing professional skills in this decade more than ever, they’re encouraged to take risks and invest.
Women owning businesses is a trend that is on the rise and should continue. Investors are now seriously considering women for roles in business activities. Opportunities are ripe for the picking and should be exploited.