Research on women entrepreneurs has extensively been carried out in many countries across the world and especially in the developed countries. Arguably, most women have been venturing into entrepreneurship in order to overcome the widespread inequality between men and women in terms of the income earned. However, the rate of women becoming entrepreneurs is still low in comparison to that of men.
This paper presents a summary of studies that have looked at the various barriers to the performance of women entrepreneurs.
Barriers to Women Performance
Lerner, Brush and Hisrich (1997), while examining the performance of female entrepreneurs in Israel realized that entrepreneurship presents most women with an opportunity to achieve economic stability equal to that of their male counterparts. A majority of women are, however, attracted to entrepreneurship by the strong desire to provide for the needs of their families. Apparently, it is imperative for women entrepreneurs to gain industry relevant experience in order to succeed as entrepreneurs.
This study attributes the failure of female entrepreneurs to excel to lack of experience that is well aligned with the chosen business. Equally important is the fact that women entrepreneurs must build their business skills and aim to be successful in their business undertakings. Furthermore, commitment to a reliable network where women can receive support and advice is also necessary if women have to enhance their chances of succeeding as entrepreneurs (Lerner, Brush & Hisrich, 1997).
In the study by Brindley (2005), three major barriers to women entrepreneurship were identified. First, there is the social cultural status of women that identifies their primary responsibility as caring for their families. To a large extent, this weakens their potential to set up successful business ventures. Secondly, most women lack access to important social networks and the necessary support needed for them to advance in competitive business environments. Finally, access to various forms of capital is also a major barrier to the performance of women entrepreneurs.
Social structures including family, work, and the organization of social life affect how women access entrepreneurial opportunities and ultimately, they affect their overall performance. Ostensibly, these social structures influence the development of human as well as social capital vital to their success as entrepreneurs. This study argues that an entrepreneur often starts with a set of human and social capital endowments. However, the effect of these structural barriers largely depends on the country in consideration and is controlled by expectations for women in those countries.
In South America for example, women are mainly associated with childcare and this greatly affects their ability to create business ventures and their subsequent performance. In much the same way, the act of a woman taking on entrepreneurial roles in Muslim states is tantamount to a show of disrespect to the husband (Brindley, 2005). In this study, women are generally regarded as second class citizens who are meant to take care of the affairs at home. As a result, their efforts to penetrate the business world are often frustrated by way how the society sees them.
The study by Welter (2004) points to the fact that women generally experience unique problems as far as resource mobilization is concerned. Their performance is thus affected by lack of critical resources such as human, social, and financial necessary for them to succeed in their business ventures. As far as social capital in the form of networks is concerned, the study indicates that there are gender specific deficits in networking contacts of female entrepreneurs due to the limited outreach and diversity of women entrepreneurs’ networks.
Very few networks thus exist that can enhance the interaction of women among themselves. With regard to financial support needs, female entrepreneurs apparently use less capital and as a result, they tend to setup smaller business ventures unlike men. Unfortunately, the small businesses are only good enough to help women provide for the needs of their families. A lot needs to be done to help women access enough funding that will enable them grow their businesses to greater heights.
A lack of the requisite financial management skills also stands in the way of the success of women entrepreneurs. In addition, women tend to be more concerned about taking care of the home and providing childcare. The nature of their businesses is thus only meant to help them fend for their families and not to grow into becoming major business ventures that can effectively compete in a fierce market. Women are also mostly perceived by many financial institutions as less entrepreneurial than men and are often evaluated lower on risk taking.
This study argues that gender differences in how businesses are initiated have a huge impact of the performance of women entrepreneurs. On the face of it, a major difference relates to how capital is accessed (Welter, 2004). The study further shows that, growth is a risk that may be financial or social and may come from internal or external sources. Changes in the marketing environment, for example, may require growth so as to survive.
According to Niazkar and Arab-Moghaddam (2011), most women are concerned about the fact that the society and various authorities do understand issues regarding women entrepreneurship. Women are also afraid that negative attitudes held by the society about them are a major impediment to their performance as entrepreneurs. The features and capability needed for entrepreneurship such as determination for change and innovation, leadership, risk tolerance, and the desire to progress are generally influenced by the negative attitude toward women in different societies.
One of the strategies that have been suggested to ensure improved performance of women entrepreneurs is to undertake a radical reform of the different structures in the society. It is also necessary to deal with barriers that have a financial bearing. In particular, market instability, lack of financial support by relevant organizations, lack of facilities to start the business, low rate of profit, and poor of cooperation must all be addressed. Other helpful suggestions include the creation of avenues for women entrepreneurs to receive professional consultancy services, organizing trainings that specifically target women entrepreneurs, and offering loans that are affordable and easy to access to women entrepreneurs (Niazkar & Arab-Moghaddam, 2011).
According to Bruni, Gherardi and Poggio (2004), media has a big role to play in promoting the development of women in the business world. A major strength of the media is that it makes it possible to reach an extremely wide audience and thus provides the most efficient way of ensuring that information reaches the target group as fast as can be practical. It is therefore imperative to involve the media in addressing the challenges that are faced by women entrepreneurs in different parts of the world.
It is also necessary to educate the society on the outcomes of having a negative attitude toward women in the society. The entire society must be made aware of the fact that the attitude of the society toward women is generally to blame for all the stunted growth among women employees (Bruni, Gherardi & Poggio, 2004).
In this paper, different studies that have looked at barriers to women entrepreneurship were examined. Although it is a universal problem facing all women throughout the world, the effects vary from one country to another. The difference also applies when considering developed and developing nations. Among the barriers cited include lack of motivation, lack of vital knowledge from different sources, lack of financial support, lack of important market information, and various traditions and norms that determine how women are generally viewed in various societies.
From the various studies looked at, the entry of women into entrepreneurship is a complex mixture of constraints and opportunities. This notwithstanding, entrepreneurship is an avenue through which women stakeholders can deal with the income inequality among men and women that is so prevalent in the society today. While formal employment gives men an unfair advantage over women, entrepreneurship creates a balance and makes it possible for women to excel.
Despite the numerous challenges that women face as they work toward realizing the dream of becoming entrepreneurs, they are at the same time driven by compelling needs to provide for their families, a search for independence and autonomy in work, a search for professional self satisfaction, a search for income, and a search for a social inclusion. It is thus imperative for governments to take the necessary steps to ensure that women can receive their empowerment through entrepreneurship.
Brindley, C. (2005). Barriers to Women Achieving their Entrepreneurial Potential: Women and Risk. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 11(2), 144 – 161.
Bruni, A., Gherardi, S. & Poggio, B. (2004). Entrepreneur-Mentality, Gender and the Study of Women Entrepreneurs, Journal of Organizational Change Management, 17(3), 256 – 268.
Lerner, M., Brush, C. & Hisrich, R. (1997). Israel Women Entrepreneurs: An Examination of Factors Affecting Performance. Journal of Business Venturing, 12, 315 – 339.
Niazkar, F. & Arab-Moghaddam, N. (2011). Study of Barriers to Women’s Entrepreneurship Development among Iranian Women. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 60, 1115 – 1119.
Welter, F. (2004). The environment for female entrepreneurship in Germany. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 11(2), 212 – 221.