5 Min ReadBusiness 19 August 2020
One thing that I love about the SWAAY community is that it provides, not an escape, but a representation of what women can achieve when we have a platform exclusively for us to share our stresses, our successes, and our stories. But I think we can all agree that SWAAY is certainly not the norm; there is a whole wide world out there that doesn't offer the same safety and support of women and their work.
A recent study conducted by Aston University concluded that in the United Kingdom, men are more than twice as likely than women to start their own businesses. While this statistic isn't necessarily too surprising, it's still disheartening to know that there is such a stark entrepreneurial gap between genders. However, there may be hope yet. The UK is taking these findings and backing new initiatives specifically focused on closing that gap by providing more directed funding and resources to support women entrepreneurs. But that's just the UK.
As we continue to think about evening the playing field for women in business, we need to be looking globally at how countries are creating space for women to thrive and not allowing outdated models of classification to limit our worldview.
Where does the rest of the world fall in what seems to be the never-ending push and pull towards long-term and sustainable systems of support for women entrepreneurs? RS Components recently released their findings after analyzing data from Mastercard's Index of Women Entrepreneurs from 2019 to display what countries are doing the best at closing the entrepreneurial gap.
Leading the charge are Uganda, Ghana, and Botswana, all boasting over a third (36%) of their entrepreneurs identifying as women. It's still nowhere near an even split, but it's at least moving in the right direction. Just for some perspective from our Western readers, the United States is trailing closely behind these 3 countries, at 35%, whereas the United Kingdom clocks in at 28% women entrepreneurs.
It's worth noting that the top three countries are all African. Academic language has recently been moving away from the distinctions of "first" or "third world" countries, as these terms inherently established a hierarchy that is no longer necessarily correct. However, the harmful stereotypes of these terms still exist, with a typical Western society view consisting of an image of Africa that is poor, backwards, and neglectful of women.
Now, every country still has much to do to establish women as equal citizens worthy of protection, healthcare, and economic and educational opportunities, but clearly these countries are doing something right to be leading the world in their percentage of women entrepreneurs. As we continue to think about evening the playing field for women in business, we need to be looking globally at how countries are creating space for women to thrive and not allowing outdated models of classification to limit our worldview.
While these numbers prove that globally, women are undoubtedly less likely to start businesses than men, the approach to closing the entrepreneurial gender gap can't be one-size-fits-all.
In the last decade, the number of women business owners around the world has increased by 45% overall. However, this data set from RS Components is really demonstrating that in order to truly understand where women need the support, we have to break it down by country. While some of the struggles that women entrepreneurs face may be common — the complications of work-family balance in a patriarchal system or discrimination from funding sources — the "woman in business" experience is in no way universal. It's well worth considering sociocultural or even political barriers that may very well explain why the United States' businesses are 35% women-owned while Saudi Arabia is only 2%.
So what do the women of the world need? Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as that. While these numbers prove that globally, women are undoubtedly less likely to start businesses than men, the approach to closing the entrepreneurial gender gap can't be one-size-fits-all. We have to consider the ways that various barriers affect various populations and how deeply the discrimination towards women permeates different aspects of the entrepreneurial process. What's more, it's time to look at how countries themselves are owning up to this problem and directing much-needed attention and resources towards supporting women looking to start their own businesses.
The assistance can't stop there, however. Any solutions toward closing this gap and increasing the percentage of women entrepreneurs on a national basis must be sustainable and focused on maintaining the longevity of women-owned businesses. A 2018 report from the Unilever Foundation found that 42% of women found that they faced the same gender discrimination when attempting to scale up their businesses as they did when they were starting out. This is not simply a problem of starting a business but of sustaining one.
And then we have to look back at everything that happens before a woman starts a business and the systems of support that exist in a women's daily life. While it is all well and good to allocate resources towards women entrepreneurs, we have to think about how women's rights intersect with women's businesses.
Let's look back at the numbers. Does it really surprise us that a country where women only legally gained the ability to drive two years ago doesn't have infrastructure in place to promote women empowerment through entrepreneurship? How are these women expected to focus on their businesses when they first must focus on their livelihood, their safety, and their health—all aspects of daily life that should be protected but aren't.
This is not simply a problem of starting a business but of sustaining one.
In order to have women entrepreneurs compete at the same level as men, they must first gain the same rights and opportunities as those men in the rest of their world outside of business. Building a foundation—a strong and sustainable one—for women's entrepreneurship relies on women's equality and the directed attention towards issues that still aren't really talked about.
This data set shows that we are moving in the right direction as a worldwide community of women, but let's continue being a community first and a business second. Let's continue to advocate for systemic changes that allow women to not only work on the same level as men but simply exist there. And let's continue to reflect on the countries that are paving the way and bring attention to the ones that we don't want to get left behind as we create custom solutions that allow women to do the work and love what they do.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist