I came across Babson College’s GEM Report citing that working women in the lowest income countries are three times more likely than non-working women to start businesses. The study attributes the findings to the fact that employment helps to improve skills of women and indirectly expands their social networks necessary for business.
While it is certainly easier for women to transition into self-employment by using skills and expertise they have learned and perfected in their working environments, including the networks and relationships they forge during their employment years; is it possible that in some cases, women who are unemployed are more determined to start informal businesses because they do not have alternatives? Could starting businesses be a matter of survival for some unemployed women in developing countries?
I’ve discovered that for the most part women use entrepreneurship as a form of self – employment to support their families and communities. Some unemployed women tend to use adversity to propel them forward and make them more determined than ever to find solutions to whatever situations they face. No matter where you go in Africa – women, young and old, are traditionally the ones selling goods at the market; women tend to travel to different parts of Africa and the world to buy goods to re-sell in their countries.
Entrepreneurship seems to come naturally for most women in the low income countries irrespective of their employment status; it is a mind-set and a way of life.
I believe personal characteristics such as resilience, hard work, sense of initiative, the inherent need for achievement, relentlessness, zeal, risk propensity, self-efficacy are all characteristics that provide the foundation for entrepreneurship, whether you were previously employed or not.
Could the above skills be learnt through entrepreneurial experience as well, other than previous employment? Absolutely. Often entrepreneurs learn from their own failures that eventually help them get on the right path, other than through formal entrepreneurship programmes.
It is also important to point out that since traditional employment is deemed to have “low risk”, provides benefits and stable pay with consistent schedules, some working women I have come across are not prepared to take the risk of entrepreneurship. In fact, they are very comfortable with the lifestyles they have built around their stable work environment.
Well, these are my thoughts and experiences, what are yours?