The Rise of Women Entrepreneurs – Women everywhere are becoming entrepreneurs. In greater numbers than ever before, women are stepping away from traditional economic roles and venturing out to start to their own businesses.
In every field imaginable, even the most “masculine,” you don’t have to look hard to find female entrepreneurs who have overcome seemingly impossible odds to achieve success.
The profound structural changes taking place in the nations of the world are providing new opportunities for entrepreneurs—male and female alike. In the industrialized countries, manufacturing is in decline, but the rapidly growing service industries are burgeoning.
In this rapid change and ensuing disarray brought about by the globalization of markets and competition, new technology, and instantaneous communications, the old way of doing things is proving ineffective and obsolete.
New opportunities abound—and women are taking advantage of them.1 In many developing countries, manufacturing is on the rise and modernization is coming very quickly. As in industrialized nations, change is occurring at an accelerated pace.
During this period of fluidity and flux, ambitious, energetic, and creative individuals are 4 The Rise of Women Entrepreneurs seizing the initiative. As a result, women are also becoming a driving force in the growth of emerging and developing economies around the world.
Needless to say, the significant changes in the world economy have greatly altered the status of women in the marketplace.
The Rise of Women Entrepreneurs
New opportunities have generated new challenges—meeting the greater demand for skills and specialization of knowledge, maintaining the viability of those skills and that knowledge in an ever-changing marketplace, and accommodating the instability that can arise from such changes.
As a result, new ways of thinking and doing have to be considered. At such a juncture, the leadership style of women and their special capacities and qualities appear especially valuable. In addition to structural transformation, changes in values also are taking place.
Changing social forces encourage women to enter the realm of the workplace and business ownership. Since World War II, there has been a growing influx of women into western labor markets, motivated in part by the need they feel for financial independence and self-sufficiency.
Other factors include the inadequacy of one paycheck today to meet the financial needs of many middle-class families, a growing divorce rate, and an increasing number of women as heads of households.
Moreover, changing values and attitudes toward paid work also encourage some financially secure women to seek selfrealization outside the home.
This emerging pattern in the developed world has found an echo in the developing world. In country after country, development agencies have discovered the importance of women’s contributions to the local economy and their potential as key contributors in promoting sustainable development at the grassroots.
Whether in the west or in the developing world, however, not all women are content to be employees. A growing number are emerging as entrepreneurs. According to a series of studies conducted and analyzed by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO):
• Across the world, woman-owned firms typically constitute between onefourth and one-third of the business population
• The number of woman-owned enterprises is growing faster than the economy at large in many countries
• Woman-owned businesses are starting in every industrial sector
“Entrepreneurship among women is a vibrant and growing trend internationally,” noted NFWBO director of research Julie R. Weeks. “Women business owners are making significant contributions to economic health and competitiveness in countries around the world.”
These are women who choose, for their own account, to organize and manage the resources of their own companies and assume the financial risks inherent in doing so in the hope of eventually earning a profit. For low-income women, the primary motivation is to generate income.
At the same time, for many women entrepreneurs, objectives like self-fulfillment or fostering a worthwhile cause are as important as profits. At one extreme, their enterprises may be as small as their own part-time work.
At another, they may grow into such large enterprises as The Body Shop, an international chain of natural cosmetics founded by Anita Roddick with annual sales in excess of $1.2 billion.