Women entrepreneurs are creating jobs and sustainable businesses

A high 67 percent of women entrepreneurs are creating jobs within the first year of business life.

The first South African Women Entrepreneurs Job Creators Survey report has found a deep commitment to job creation, with 90 percent of women entrepreneurs saying it was an important consideration in starting their businesses.

The survey also revealed optimism in terms of future job creation, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The majority of respondents anticipate that their businesses will recover from the impact of the pandemic within two years, anticipate growth in revenues and are either actively recruiting new staff now or planning for new, near-term hires. The survey was undertaken by Lionesses of Africa together with New York University, and supported by Absa. Women account for 19.4 percent of business owners in South Africa.

Data was collected online from 913 women entrepreneurs in South Africa between November 23, 2020, and April 28, 2021, and informed by a further 150 qualitative interviews of women entrepreneurs during the same period. Participants were recruited through the Lionesses of Africa network, to represent a wide range of business types, sizes and sectors.

The survey found that women entrepreneurs were creating jobs in the early stages of their businesses’ life cycle, with 67 percent doing so within the first year.

Among the entrepreneurs who employ staff, more than a third considered their current staffing levels to be inadequate for their needs and 41 percent were actively recruiting. Of those who were hiring, 73 percent reported that they were hiring to help meet demand, 12 percent to bring additional skills into the business, and another 12 percent said they were hiring, or rehiring, to replace employees who had left or were let go.

Lionesses of Africa founder Melanie Hawken said what was encouraging about the survey’s findings was that women entrepreneurs had a real self-belief in their ability to create jobs, and it remained one of the key drivers of their motivation to build sustainable businesses.

“Women entrepreneurs have job creation in their DNA. Another stand-out finding from the report was how these women fought to protect jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than two-thirds either reducing their own salaries or stopping paying themselves a salary altogether in order to look after their staff first. Women entrepreneurs are committed to both creating and retaining jobs,” she said.

The survey also found that women-owned businesses with a digital presence demonstrated greater resilience during Covid-19, with businesses using online platforms less likely to be affected by the pandemic, and being more optimistic about future revenue.

There was a notable difference in expectations surrounding future hiring between companies that had majority digital sales compared to those without. When asked what their expectations are regarding jobs in their company over the next 12 months, 35 percent of women leading businesses that make the majority of their sales through an app or online marketplace responded that they expected jobs to increase a lot, compared with only 22 percent of women who were not embracing digital sales.

In addition, 85 percent of women entrepreneurs in non-employing partnerships and 78 percent of solo entrepreneurs reported that they hire or work with other self-employed freelancers or independent contractors.