Women Entrepreneurs In The Developing World – Throughout the world, woman-owned firms typically constitute between one-fourth and one-third of the business population. While women entrepreneurs in both developing countries and developed countries share many characteristics, many more women in the developing world remain illiterate—although not lacking in intelligence, experience, and wisdom—and live in poor rural communities.
Nonetheless, women have always actively participated in their local economies. In Africa, for example, women produce 80 percent of the food. In Asia, they produce 60 percent and in Latin America 40 percent. In many cases, women not only produce food but market it as well, giving them a well-developed knowledge of local markets and customers.
In the Maghreb, embracing Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, Muslim women create one in every ten new enterprises. According to Moncef Bouchrara, president of the consulting firm Afkar/Ich’Har, many researchers have failed to notice the emergence of an entrepreneurial class of women in the Arab world: “It is assumed to be non-existent. Nevertheless, it is becoming a clear and observable reality throughout the Mediterranean Basin, including the Maghreb.”
Also, says Bouchrara, the role of women entrepreneurs hasn’t been described correctly: its effects on the modernization of the society have not been properly understood.
“Societies throughout the Mediterranean Basin are regarded as patriarchal affairs in which the status of women is greatly inferior to that of men.” But thanks to enterprising women that is no longer true.
“It has to be admitted that a feminism is developing widely along the southern shores of the Mediterranean, a feminism that is integrated into the basic anthropological values that give society its coherence and internal dynamism.”
Women Entrepreneurs In The Developing World
Although in the Maghreb enterprise creation rarely takes the form of legal companies, Bouchrara’s research shows that in the informal sector more and more new firms are being started, and many of them are started by women.11 In Tunisia, more than 11 percent of the firms launched in the last twenty years were created by women.
If one observes that in 1970 only 1 percent of new firms were created by women, one can appreciate the scale of the change that has occurred. In this evolution, social practices have altered before any innovation has occurred in institutions.
This has created a demand for modernization in institutions: “Women entrepreneurs are not only the internal product of the cultural dynamic of their societies as they undergo modernization, but also appear as independent actors contributing fully to that modernization,” says Bouchrara. The majority of the impoverished in the world are women and children.
The tiny enterprises undertaken by some of these women enable them to improve the quality of life for themselves and their 10 The Rise of Women Entrepreneurs families. These micro-enterprises have begun to attract much attention.
Charitable and nonprofit organizations working at the grassroots have found that investing in women offers the most effective means to improve health, nutrition, hygiene, and educational standards. The Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) describes women as the “most dependable, productive, and creative members of impoverished societies.”
As women in developing countries acquire competence and experience, and as the artificial barriers to their full participation in the economic life of their communities gradually fall, the integration of feminine values into the workplace should create a more humane and balanced work environment.
Because of their unique leadership style, women-run enterprises generally provide a caring, cooperative work environment in which individual growth and development are fostered. At the same time, women’s ways of leading are proving themselves particularly effective in today’s turbulent economic world.
Another observation worthy of reflection is the convergence of a new paradigm of management and a style of leadership typical of women throughout the world.
Globalization of markets and competition, new technology, and instantaneous communication bring with them unprecedented change. This is forcing traditional companies to “reinvent” themselves, to adopt a new model of management that shares some of its features with the leadership traits of women entrepreneurs.
The example of the accomplishment of women entrepreneurs may well give credence to the prediction made at the beginning of this century that the “new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.