Study presents paths to strengthen female entrepreneurship
Brazilian women have historically faced barriers and inequalities in spaces of power and in the business world. Ana Fontes, a gender researcher, specialist in female entrepreneurship and founder of the Female Entrepreneurs’ Network and Female Entrepreneurs’ Network Institute, recently wrote about ways to strengthen female entrepreneurship in a paper published in one of FGV’s journals, GV-Executive.
When entering the job market, women have often been relegated to operational positions and faced prejudice, such as pressure to “look presentable” based on white and Western standards. Despite some changes, women are still more present in grassroots positions than in leadership posts and many face harassment and discrimination because they are mothers or due to their age.
Entrepreneurship is an alternative for women seeking flexibility at work, financial independence and an escape from abusive situations in corporate environments. This sector has significant potential to impact the Brazilian economy and society.
A study by the Female Entrepreneurs’ Network Institute revealed the profile of women entrepreneurs in the country: in general, they are mothers, married, black and with a relatively low level of education. Many of them work in the informal economy, especially in Brazil’s North and Northeast regions. Female entrepreneurship is largely driven by necessity, as many women do not find space in the traditional market and see it as a way to provide for their families.
Despite their economic importance, female entrepreneurs have faced challenges in growing their businesses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which negatively impacted women-led firms.
Strengthening female entrepreneurship is essential for several reasons. Studies show that women spend a large share of their income on their children’s education, family well-being and community support, contributing to a positive cycle of local development. In addition, businesses managed by women tend to employ more women, promoting inclusion and gender equality in the labor market.
To strengthen women’s enterprises, some key measures need to be taken:
- Facilitate access to different types of capital: Combat prejudices and stereotypes so that women entrepreneurs can obtain loans and investments for their businesses. Angel investors and microcredit can be viable options.
- Encourage the digitalization of businesses: Training women entrepreneurs to use digital tools and ensuring access to the internet in all regions of the country are essential for this transformation.
- Promote access to innovation: Women entrepreneurs must have equal opportunities to participate in innovation and acceleration programs, as well as representation in these initiatives.
- Ensure market access opportunities: Affirmative purchasing policies should be implemented to encourage large companies to buy products and services from women-owned businesses.
- Promote education and training: Investing in training and capacity-building programs for female entrepreneurs is essential for the development and success of their businesses.
- Uphold women’s rights: Public policies must combat all forms of discrimination and violence against women, in addition to guaranteeing constitutional rights such as equality, freedom and safety.
Strengthening female entrepreneurship in Brazil is essential to boost the economy, reduce gender inequality and increase the representation of women in spaces of power. Public policies and actions that promote inclusion and support for women entrepreneurs are vital to transform society in a positive and lasting way.
Ana Fontes concludes by saying, “We will only make progress in areas that we want so much if more women think for themselves. Occupying strategic places is essential to turn the tide when it comes to gender inequality”.