Gender stereotypes are the expectations society creates about what women are like and how they should behave.This can result into devaluation of their performance and denial of credit to them for their successes. The societal image of an entrepreneur as a lone fighter is similar to the male traits (as aggressive, competitive, willingness to take risks) which are based on a set of stereotypes not like most women who do not have such masculine traits. This creates limitations for women entrepreneurs to seek financial and social support for their entrepreneurial ventures. Women and (some men who don’t identify with these male traits) may be discouraged from seeking entrepreneurship as a viable career path. Yet the female entrepreneurs usually maximize the masculine traits to venture for the business opportunities in the same way men do.
There are no specific behaviors that could be regarded as for a female or male entrepreneur to consider being a successful entrepreneur. The way society socializes each gender (men and women or boys and girls) right from birth affects our capacity in life to do certain things the way we are supposed to do them, capacity being a state of mind. When a woman has been prepared to belief in the mind that entrepreneurship is only for men, since it’s based on the masculine traits, she will obviously grow up in the same perspective.
Some female entrepreneurs are even told by their mentors not be like men in order to be successful in their businesses. This isn’t right! Entrepreneurship is associated with emotions (passion, fear and pride). This affects both gender since everybody’s decision is influenced by emotion.
There are likely to be more women entrepreneurs than men, for instance Uganda has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs in the world, with 90.5% of women borrowing and saving money to start a business, which is significantly higher than the 52.4 % average of other low to lower middle income countries.[i]
For instance, Vishal Gupta, an assistant professor of strategy at Binghamton University in New York said that there have been many high-profile female entrepreneurs over the past half-century but the failure to highlight the work of female entrepreneurs is exacerbated by societal stereotypes that often link entrepreneurship to masculine characteristics. Gupta, who has devoted much of his research career to entrepreneurship, finds that gender stereotypes can discourage women from starting their own businesses, while gender-neutral messages prove most appealing to them. He adds that the way entrepreneurship is presented, discussed and taught must change especially for women.[ii]
According to UNCTAD, Women entrepreneurs particularly in developing countries face some barriers like institutional, systemic, customary, cultural practices, beliefs and norms which hold up their potential to start, run and grow their businesses. Although gaining a clear picture of the situation is difficult due to the scarcity of statistics of women entrepreneurship, available data strongly indicates that female entrepreneurs are largely under represented as business owners of formally registered enterprises.
However, in low income countries, women tend to be clustered in the micro and informal sector, operating their businesses for subsistence purposes. The actual number of women contributing to a country’s GDP is likely to be even larger than the number stated in official records due to the large number of women working in the informal sector and for subsistence businesses.
As many women’s businesses are in the informal sector, these female entrepreneurs have limited legal rights, social protection, status or recognition. This is due to gender digital divide in many regions. Therefore, women entrepreneurs will lack enough literacy, skills, access and resources. Since they are excluded from the opportunities and benefits offered by Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) due to gender stereotyping in entrepreneurship. As a result;
Women entrepreneurs tend to have restricted access to bank loans for their businesses due to customs and laws that deny women the rights to inherit land and property titles for example collateral for loans which often makes it impossible for women entrepreneurs to obtain financing for their business from formal financial institutions due to marginalization.
Female entrepreneurs are being disadvantaged to thrive in the digital economy where skills such as reading and writing are needed to attain digital literacy. This is because in many regions, men are expected to be the family breadwinners, and women are supposed to take care of the household. This also contributes to practices where families and employers are more inclined to invest in formal education and training for men rather than women. As a result, many women embarking on entrepreneurship lack access to education and basic literacy skills which affect their business.
Women entrepreneurs often must juggle traditional household responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, teaching and caring for children and elderly while running the business. This places constraints on their ability to leave home for business purposes such as visiting customers, attending networking events or participating in business training.[iii]
How ICTs have helped to modify gender stereotypes among women entrepreneurs
According to UNCTAD, Women entrepreneurs have been offered new opportunities to start and grow businesses through diverse forms of ICTs due to the introduction of ICTs to reach out to customers, become more efficient and build their businesses in ways they could not do before. Women entrepreneurs are now able to balance their gender roles and entrepreneurship since;
Women entrepreneurs are now able to work from anywhere at the times most convenient for them and combine work with family responsibilities due to the introduction of ICT. They can now run home based businesses due to flexibility and efficiency of ICTs.
Long distance learning and e-education initiatives are made possible by ICTs, therefore, making it easier for women entrepreneurs to access efficient education, skills, and training needed for entrepreneurship in both developed and developing countries.
Women entrepreneurs can get increased opportunities and methods for promoting their business, developing marketing channels, gaining access to business support services and creating networks with customers, business partners and other stakeholders in a convenient and affordable manner through ICTs.
Different ICTs have helped women entrepreneurs to become and stay better informed of laws and regulations affecting them, as well as their rights. Property and inheritance rights laws for example, have an implication on women’s ability to access finance.[iv]
Society thinks entrepreneurship is for men yet women can be entrepreneurs because it’s just practice like Peter Drucker says “Entrepreneurship is neither science nor an art. It is a practice.” Once the women of Uganda embrace it as a culture, they will surely be in the equal space as men.[v]
[i] Fredrick Ngugi(march 08,2017);Uganda Shines with Highest Number of women Entrepreneurs available at https://face2faceafrica.com/article/women-entrepreneurs-uganda
[ii]Eric Coker (2011), Gender Stereotypes Often Push Women Away from Entrepreneurship
[iv]UNCTAD &CSTD (2011)Applying a Gender Lens to Science, Technology and Innovations,NO.5 available at http://unctad.org/en/Docs/dtlstict2011d5_en.pdf
[v]Naijuka Rodgers (23 march,2016) Entrepreneurship Impact to Ugandan Women Entrepreneurs available at http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1420282/entrepreneurship-impact-ugandan-women-empowerment#sthash.sw441l6F.dpuf