Monday, November 2, 2015

On Women, Business and the Society

Compared to other regions of the world, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of female entrepreneurs. These women are mostly owners of small businesses and local community shops serving the unmet needs of their homes and consumers. This reshapes the incorrect perception that African women have marginal input in overall economic output.

But for all this input, women are still getting the short end of the stick, Women do 66% of the world's work but earn 10% of the world's income yet they reinvest 90% of their income into family & community. There’s a famous meme that say that if wealth was created by working hard, all African women would be millionaires. When women have access to opportunities and resources, we all benefit. So then if business is about creating wealth and opportunity, why then are we shortchanging women?  Even though legal gender parity has improved around the world, major differences persist. Many laws continue to prevent women from improving their own well-being and that of their families by working or running a business. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2014, inequality in economic participation and opportunity “lags stubbornly behind” areas like education. Women’s work is undervalued and women face barriers to owning property or getting into business.

As President Obama famously said during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit earlier this year, “If half of your team is not playing, you have a problem. In many countries, half of the team is women and youth.” So how do we get the other half of the team to play? Because empowering women should not be charity. It is an investment with returns for any business and the society at large. Equal opportunities for women in business and the workplace depend on a miasma of economic, social and cultural factors. For example, there is evidence that women lag behind men in technology adoption owing to the high costs of acquiring and maintaining new technologies, as well as the lack of information and training. If they are unable to adopt new technologies, women are prevented from expanding their businesses because, for example, existing distribution systems may be unable to handle higher turnover.  Women also cannot migrate as easily as men to towns and cities where training in new technologies is more available. They then have the added responsibilities of caring for children and the elderly as the primary caregivers.

With this in mind, Zimba Women was founded to pursue inclusive market systems initiatives that can empower women and create more benefits for women and men, their families, and the whole of society. Our mission is to enable empowerment and development for women entrepreneurs in Africa by providing access to digital platforms that provide affordable market accessibility and capacity building. In this way we achieve our goal of adding value to women owned businesses using technology and thus making them more sustainable. And when women win, we all win!

“Women are powerhouse entrepreneurs. When women succeed, they invest more in their families and communities.” – President Obama. 

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