Barriers To Female Entrepreneurship In Kenya

Why is it that men are used in investment or tech related adverts while women are used for beauty and home keeping adverts? Well, this might sound out of topic but you’ll see its relevance as we progress in the following article. Growing up, women have been taught by the society to worry more about how they look and taking care of their families and societies at large. This means that women are always working to please people and this includes constantly seeking approval from others.  Men on the other hand have been brought up to be the family warriors and the leaders in every aspect of life, not afraid of taking risks.

While gender equality is, in its own right, a millennium development goal (MDG No. 3), increasing research indicates that gender equality is essential to meet all MDGs, including empowerment of women to participate more in economic growth activities. Women entrepreneurs inspire other women, but many female business owners still face significant obstacles because of their gender. Many of these challenges have to do with perception. As much as Kenya’s society is evolving and adopting some western beliefs, it’s still a very conservative society.  Being a woman in Kenya, there are certain expectations people have and most women in Kenya conform to them.

When I was growing up, which I still am, I knew entrepreneurship was reserved for the men . At that point I understood that for you to be a successful entrepreneur, you had to have a big booming business wrecking in profits. So when one Tabitha Karanja, of Keroche Breweries took to the center stage for running a successful brewery business, I was really optimistic that finally women entrepreneurs in Kenya were starting to wake up and embrace the boardroom. Other women who’ve shown that it is possible for women to run successful business empires include Eva Muraya, Julie Gichuru, Olive Gachara, Lynette Kwamboka among others.

Women entrepreneurs go through different hurdles while running their businesses including;

Work-Life Balance

Women are expected to be the home-makers, meaning performing the day to day household chores. It becomes tough for women entrepreneurs to strike the balance between being good home-makers and great entrepreneurs.    One side would definitely be starved. Men on the other hand have enough time on their hands to run their businesses. All they think about is running a successful business that will bring in enough cash to take care of their families. They believe once they have money, the family is taken care of.

Inadequate access to finance

This is one of the major factors affecting women entrepreneurs in the quest to running successful ventures. Majority of property owners are men. Avery small fraction of women own property making it challenging for them to provide collateral in case they require a loan to boost their businesses. However, there are a few financial institutions like Chase Bank who have loan facilities tailor-made for women entrepreneurs.

Risk Aversion

Women are generally very cautious human beings. Sometimes businesses are risky ventures and only those who can handle that go through it to the end. Personally, I’d  like to invest in a business when am sure I’ll get returns. Majority of women entrepreneurs are known for their inadequate risk bearing ability. Most women especially in rural Kenya are less educated. Others are economically unstable. These factors reduce their ability to handle risks in business. This therefore further hampers their full potential in undertaking business because ability to handle risks is an integral aspect in entrepreneurship.

Emotions

Women are generally emotional beings. This might either work for them or against them at the expense of their own needs, business or otherwise. Emotions tend to hold back women from making tough business decisions which their male counterparts wouldn’t hesitate making.

 

For successful women’s entrepreneurship in Kenya,  factors inhibiting their participation in Small and Medium Enterprises can be clearly isolated and addressed. This includes;

  1. Addressing the disproportion in accessing financial services
  2. Preparing women on how to seek funding and how to negotiate so they can advocate for their businesses.
  3. Celebrating role models and use the power of the media to tell the story of successful female entrepreneurs in order to change perceptions.

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