Engendering Growth: Cultivating the Ecosystem of Support for Women Business Owners

Published: January 2014

This document presents Vital Voices and its partner associations have mapped the ecosystem of support that is currently available for women-owned businesses from the perspective of businesswomen's associations (BWAs) in 21 countries. Through this process, Vital Voices and BWAs identified strengths, gaps, and opportunities for action to support women business owners that exist at the regional, country, and global levels. Drawing from Vital Voices' partnership with these BWAs in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, including an ecosystem mapping exercise and member survey, this report identifies specific areas in which ecosystem actors may support women business owners; provides actionable context and guidance - a roadmap - for organizations that aspire to greater global leadership and impact within the women's economic empowerment space; and encourages ecosystem actors to explore new and innovative partnerships while also considering additional stakeholders to bring to the table and include in strategic investment decisions.

Key Findings

  • In general, women represent a disproportionately smaller percentage of business owners at the global level than do men.
  • Beyond technology, Business Women's Association (BWA) members in Sub Saharan Africa were most interested in finding a mentor, with 75 percent of business owners surveyed stated that finding a mentor would be the most useful area for business growth.
  • BWA survey respondents who own a business primarily operate in the formal sector. Almost 66.85 percent of them have a formally registered business.
  • Women-owned businesses tend to be concentrated in the less profitable sectors of the economy, such as enterprises that require lower levels of capital investment and that have low value added per unit of labor input. These twin tendencies typically result in lower profitability.
  • BWA members report to own businesses mostly related to the sectors of manufacturing (22.02 percent), restaurants, and tourism (15.29 percent).
  • The larger the scale of the enterprise, the lower the percentage of firms with female ownership represented.
  • The greatest proportion of women (54.29 percent) employ 0 to 5 permanent employees. That is, the firms are formed by the entrepreneur and a few other people dedicated to support her activities.
  • The common areas identified by the respondents as needed for skill building were accounting and financial management, the use of financial products, operational management for greater efficiency, the use of marketing and communications, the use of technology, fostering networking skills, selling their products and/or services to large multi-national companies, and achieving geographical expansion through exports.
  • BWA members in Sub Saharan Africa were most interested in finding a mentor, with 75 percent of business owners surveyed stated that finding a mentor would be the most useful area for business growth.

Populations Adolescent Girls, Rural, Urban

Complementary Outcomes Sexual And Reproductive Health, Women's Leadership

Publishers Vital Voices

Geographic Focus Africa (Northern), Africa (Sub-Saharan), Asia (Western)-Middle East, North America (Caribbean), South America-Latin America

Funded by Exxon Mobil Foundation