Access to financing and lack of financial literacy are among the major issues that have limited women entrepreneurs’ participation in the economy.
During the recently concluded World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation (WIEF) Businesswomen Network (WBN) held in Gangwon, South Korea last week, women entrepreneurs agreed that as long as financial institutions and women are not working in tandem to resolve these issues, women’s participation in the economy will be hindered.
“Limited access to financing and reluctance among the institutions limit women’s businesses, especially in the creative industry, to expand in the local and international markets.
“At the same time, women also need to remove the gender-specific barrier, ie limited understanding of financial management should they wish to grow their businesses,” GREAT Women Philippines Corp president Jeannie E Javelosa said during a panel discussion at the WBN.
To ensure growth among women entrepreneurs, UAEbased TECOM group chief human capital officer Fatma Hussain said that the government’s and industry’s cooperation would also boost women’s talent and involvement in the economy.
“Providing the right kind of support and work flexibility for women to manage their professional and personal life actually boosts their participation rate and productivity.
“In fact, the integration of personal to professional life actually does wonders to our workforce,” said Fatma, whose organisation is home to over 5,100 companies with a total workforce of 76,000 in Dubai.
WBN chairman Datuk Dr Norraesah Mohamad expressed similar views in an interview with The Malaysian Reserve.
She underlined three issues that should be addressed to encourage women’s participation especially in the creative economy.
“Despite many impressive achievements that women entrepreneurs have made, there are many challenges and limitations — especially with regard to access to financing.”
“That’s why we still need the government and non-governmental organisations’ support as women are the economy’s asset, in which its full potential has not yet been tapped,” she said.
She said that the government formulates the policy, but it is the banks that would implement the system — especially in matters of financing.
“I’ve noticed women’s scoreboard is still low. They are a bit reluctant to believe that women have the ability and will to run a business. There are a lot of funds for women, but they are still facing difficulties in accessing funds,” Norraesah added.
She said that women are also afraid of finding funds for themselves due to fears of rejection.
“Thirdly, there is a lack of awareness among women themselves on the funds allocated for them. These issues need to be looked into so that these funds can be fully utilised by women and realise our government’s policy to empower their economic capabilities,” she said.
Norraesah, who is also the executive chairman of MyEG Services Bhd, also said that contrary to popular belief, Malaysian corporations in general do not have issues with having women holding top posts.
Still, she said men need to change their mindset of women’s abilities, as most corporations prefer to choose the same face over other qualified candidates to helm the organisation.
“I am in the private sector. There’s no problem with them having women on board. If we talk about big companies, yes, there’s still a lacuna because sometimes they choose to have the same woman on their board of directorship. I sat in nine boards of directors before. I think men need to evolve and change at the same rate of women over the years,” she said.
However, Norraesah said that the situation is shifting now, and more women are represented at the top posts.
“They choose merits rather than gender,” she said.