As the UN has already started, “to achieve gender equality, work must begin now“, but this 1995 declaration, in which 198 nations committed themselves to close the gender gap and achieving women’s empowerment, hasn’t yet been fully accomplished.
It is true that there are great advances, but there are still many barriers to be broken.
The biggest gender disparity is observed in entrepreneurship.
According to the World Bank, only one out of three companies around the world is owned by a woman, and this gap opens even more in low-income countries where the statistics show that the average is only one out of four.
Another important reason that aggravates this situation is financial exclusion and lack of business loans for women. Worldwide, men are 3-6% more likely than women to get loans, and because of this difference, women face a $1.5 billion financing gap.
In order for women to achieve their enormous potential, the first step is to change the approach of the interviews that banks conduct to approve business loans for women.
According to The Global Alternative Finance Market Benchmarking Report of Columbia University, it has been identified that the questions asked to men are focused on promoting their businesses, while for women there are often preventive measures, despite the fact that women entrepreneurs are more motivated than men to improve their work and social environment.
Even the 2020 Global Entrepreneur Report from BNP Paribas Wealth Management said that more than a third of women’s companies are interested in exploring possibilities of expanding outside their countries or generating assets in a different currency.
According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2019, the trend for women entrepreneurs is to create better opportunities for women in their workforce, provide knowledge, facilitate access to business loans for women and help the economy thrive.
In general, women’s main reasons for entrepreneurship are to seek an improvement in their income and achieve financial independence, however, according to MIWE, in underdeveloped countries, economic need is the main reason, while in developed markets, open access to opportunities is the number one reason.
5 Women who have changed the world
Throughout history, a great number of women have excelled and created changes in their respective industries, until today they are symbols of women empowerment.
Sarah Breedlove was the first woman to become a millionaire thanks to her line of hair care products for African-American women. Better known as Madam C. J. Walker, she stood out at a time when racial segregation was one of the biggest social problems.
Coco Chanel was a fashion revolution with a brand that became popular around the world in the early XX century. Her fame is due to the design of bags, perfumes and accessories, this entrepreneur opened her first store during the World War I.
The “Queen of Television” Oprah Winfrey has inspired modern generations with her tenacity to break through in a difficult industry for African-American women, creating a media empire that includes a TV channel, a production company and a publishing firm.
Arianna Huffington is a Greek-American author, she is a co-funder of The Huffington Post. She ran for office in the 2003 California governor’s elections. She has published 13 books about different topics from politics to life style, and has been ranked multiple times by Forbes on its list of Most Influential Women in media.
Payal Kadakia is the daughter of Indian immigrants, she grew up in New Jersey and left Business School to found ClassPass, a fitness platform with presence in over 20 cities. Currently the company is valued at $1 billion.
All industries need to promote women empowerment, some of women’s qualities that bring value to companies are perseverance, long-term plans and the ability to take more calculated risks, in addition to empathy and great sense to create collaborative teams.
A long road to go
According to GEM Women’s Entrepreneurship Report 2018/2019, North America has the largest number of financial, professional, administrative and consumer service companies, however, the sectors where women have the greatest presence are those related to health, education, social services and manufacturing.
Because of the lack of business loans for women, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) stresses the importance of creating mechanisms that facilitate debt restructuring or greater access to capital to develop businesses.
To achieve this, the organism suggests reviewing regulatory frameworks and reorganizing processes of banking institutions.
To address this situation, Fintech institutions have played a very important role by facilitating access to business loans for women with small companies.
Camino Financial, for example, is a Fintech that specializes in financial products designed for small enterprises that have limited access to loans, as well as providing advice and support for business development.
Another initiative that reduces the opportunity gap for women entrepreneurs is Girls in Tech, a global project that facilitates women’s inclusion in science and technology. Could you share with us in the comments what do you consider to be the main challenges to reduce the gender gap?