This years theme for International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress. Its a call for action for women to rise above obstacles, and by all means, break through gender barriers that often discourage women from shinning their light.
Despite all the strides that women have made in achieving gender equality, it goes without saying that there are still a number of challenges faced, especially when it comes to finance.
A report by the Central Bank of Kenya states that women account for 82 per cent of total savings while the number of transactions associated with women’s bank accounts standing at 58 per cent.
Women own and run 48 per cent of Small and Medium Enterprises in Kenya. However the fact remains that women still have lower access to formal financial services at 35 per cent compared to 50 per cent for men.
While women have the potential to drastically transform our economy, they still are underserved and have difficulties accessing finance for their enterprises. Here are some practical tips for businesswomen.
EXPLORE FINANCING OPTIONS
According to a study by Wells Fargo/Gallup, businesswomen said their main sources of capital for startups are cash from savings (85 per cent), personal credit cards (37 per cent) and financial gifts or support from family or friends (29 per cent).
Today there are many options that women can explore to finance their business. Women banking is one such option. Gulf African Bank, for example offers financial services by women for women.
Women can also explore other specific women-centred organisations that are geared towards supporting the growth of women enterprises, offering grants and loans. The government on its part, through its program Access to Government Procurement Opportunities allows women to access of government procurements.
CONNECT WITH OTHER WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Together, women are stronger. Find forums where like minded women in business meet. Take a moment to pick the brains of the successful ones, and if you can, take some time to give back to the society, and mentor young girls or women. Just imagine if every woman took the time out to mentor young upcoming women.
Imagine if every woman was dedicated to helping one of their own to find the right financial tools to successfully run and grow their business. Women have potential to run this world. We just need to own it, support it, and grow this potential, to turn it into reality.
DEPEND ON YOURSELF
Depend on yourself to get whatever it is that you want. As women, it is in our nature to be selfless, to give and to sacrifice our dreams and our ambition at the expense of others. We dim our lights, afraid that if we let go, we will shine too bright.
Women are taught to be quiet, to not speak up and therefore often take the back seat, afraid we would be shunned upon. It is time to change your mindset, and see yourself for who you really are.
See and realise the potential that you have to run a successful enterprise. Believe in your ideas, and do not be afraid to take a step in and realise your dream. Take whatever tangible steps you need to take to make your dreams come true.
Do not rely on others to get things done, but rather take control of the direction you want to go. educate yourself as much as possible about money management and savings. Take time to write down your financial goals, and craft a feasible business plan with timelines.
DO NOT BE AFRAID
As women, there is always pressure to be perfect. In fact, they say that as women we need to know 10 times more, and perform 10 times better than men. This is due to the perception that there are certain things women cannot do that man can.
This however is changing, as many women continue to break the ceiling and tear down gender barriers. Do not succumb to the pressure of being perfect. Do not be afraid of failing.
Dive in, and immerse yourself in your business idea. Get out of your comfort zone. It might be scary, but do it anyway. You might fail, but what if you fly? Fall seven times, and get up eight. Take the financial risk. You will never get to win the game, if you don’t play!
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Sometimes we are our own barriers to success. What we think of ourselves, the society and how we think others perceive us, ultimately affects how we feel an therefore how we behave.
For example, there was a study that showed the posture we hold ourselves with before an interview can actually influence the way we feel about ourselves and how we present ourselves towards others.
A psychologist showed that when people assume a power posture, it influences positive hormonal changes, making one feel more confident, and are more likely to succeed in interviews. To break through the barriers of gender, you need to throw away any limits that hold you back.
Get rid of the self defeating beliefs which make you feel less of a person. Walk into that negotiating table, the boardroom, or pitch presentation knowing you have a lot to offer, and it definitely has nothing to do with your gender.