By Sasha-Lee de Bod

In celebration of Women’s month and empowering female-owned businesses, we want to create awareness of the possibility of success in the business world for females and what makes them strong, successful leaders.

We have all noticed how Women have ‘grown a pair’, it is no longer just a man’s world. Today’s business world is a diverse environment of leadership and ownership structures. There are various characteristics showcased by women that has entered the business environment that we can take note of and learn from.

Growth in Female Entrepreneurship

South African women have been progressively and successfully stepping up to own, develop and run businesses in numbers that would have been hard to imagine a few decades ago. This greatly contributes to the individual, economic and social development in the country. Women entrepreneurs are a driving force in today’s modern economy. Women shape and redefine the workplace, business networks, financial institutions, and culture.

Research indicates that the global number of female entrepreneurs has grown by over 10% annually. Bizcommunity stated that “South Africa moved up 9 places (a 7.1% increase) from 2019 to rank 23rd globally and 1st in Africa on the 2020 Index, which tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalise on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments”. Women are still in the minority when it comes to South Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape. More than half of South Africa’s population is female yet the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs Index (MIWE), state only 19.4% of businesses are female-owned.

Women Entrepreneurship is the Key to Growth and Recovery

According to the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship report for South Africa, female entrepreneurship could be the key to unlocking South African economic growth and post-pandemic recovery if female entrepreneurs are supported and encouraged to develop and grow their businesses.

South African stakeholders need to invest in its female entrepreneurs to stimulate the economy, creating employment opportunities, reduce poverty, and secure stability for the future. The World Bank as well as Lionesses of Africa’s South African Women Entrepreneurs Job Creation Survey reported that women are critical for job creation.

Bear in mind that female entrepreneurship is vastly spread between the informal and formal sector. Most of the growth in female-owned businesses is driven by the lower-end and informal markets.

17 Qualities of Strong Female Leaders and Entrepreneurs in General:

  1. Awareness: Women tend to approach things from both a large and small perspective to get the bigger picture and the finer details. Self-awareness is essential to lead yourself, seeking out feedback to blind spots that help identify areas of growth and development as well as to lead others effectively.
  2. Resilience: Women demonstrate resilience in the face of discouragement or defeat. They tend to realise that disappointment only identifies opportunities to learn, grow, and prepare for the next opportunity. They have learned not to give up when they face a setback. Women actively attend to and participate in their business, this includes showing up. They physically and mentally contribute intellect and draw from experiences.
  3. Goal driven and focused: Women tend to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and how to achieve it.
  4. Detail and task orientated: We know that most women tend to pay more attention to the finer detail.
  5. The ability to be flexible and agile: They can quickly regroup, refocus, and channel/change the course of action without much deliberation.
  6. Patience and Persistence: Every business owner and leader faces challenges from time to time, but these moments won’t last forever, and a strong leader has the patience to persevere in the pursuit of their goals and commitments. Women have shown that they can be more agile in reinventing or pivoting themselves or their business to ensure success.
  7. Multi-tasking: They innately know how to balance more than one task at a time. Women tend to generally run households and manage hectic work lives all at the same time, they also have real life experience to balance it all. Knowing how to multi-task successfully, makes a great leader.
  8. Building connections and networks: Strong leaders are well connected.  They value relationships, networks and having a sisterhood that exposes the business to opportunities when it comes to collaborating and co-creating with like-minded individuals. A support system and network are built to drive value within your business and community.
  9. Building and leading teams: They tend to be better at developing relationships and building teams as well as putting people ahead of themselves. They are more likely to coach, mentor and develop the team members.  Female leaders follow a more strategic approach in their relationships with employees. They realise that success is not their own but a team effort.
  10. Strong communicators: Generally, this is one of the strongest skills amongst all women and they know how to use it.  A regular, clear, and open communication stream allows for clarity with all employees, clients, suppliers, partners, etc.
  11. Dealing with crises: Women, in general, don’t even think about the battle, they just go straight into crisis management mode and know how  to handle crises situations well.
  12. Lead by example and consensus: They tend to lead by example and set the tone for the workplace and learn from other people and people who they have looked up to. Female leaders tend to be more inclusive and community driven. They’re more likely to lead by compromise, rather than try to dictate the rules. The ‘feminine’ leadership style wants others to be involved and take ownership of the goal so that everyone contributes. 
  13. A willingness to nurture, emphasise and motivate: Women in leadership roles face very different expectations and roles. They have great strengths in areas like higher EQ and maturity. The thinking they offer is therefore very different to the male-dominated status quo. Women tend to have natural empathy, compassion and understanding.
  14. Continuously find opportunities for improvement:  Strong leaders actively seek input from trusted individuals or a group to continuously improve the business and achieve their goals.
  15. Open-minded and mindful: Leaders aren’t afraid to see a situation from various angles, understand the context and find the ideal outcome/solution.
  16. Intuition and Instinct: They tend to trust their instincts uncompromisingly to ensure that the business is better off because of it.
  17. Women are perceived to be a lower statistical risk for business financiers according to an article posted by News24, which in essence should inspire and enable business development and expansion within the franchise industry.

Advice for Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders in Business

Reading interesting blogs and articles and being inspired by so many other powerful female entrepreneurs the below is advice for leaders in business:

  • Don’t wait for an invitation to participate; open the door yourself.
  • Embrace the fact that you aren’t extraordinary – understand your strengths, capabilities, and your limitations.  It doesn’t mean you need to accept them, but it creates development opportunities to manage and overcome them.
  • Construct your life to fulfil meaningful purpose – be firm in your beliefs, know your “why” and align it with your goals.
  • Become aware of your thoughts and create emotional agility.
  • Work with gratitude and compassion.
  • Mutual trust and respect can make or break a business.
  • Avoid having a “superwomen complex” and learn to ask for help – from your team, mentors, friends, etc. No matter how great you are, don’t ever feel that you need to solve things in isolation. Find support and provide support.
  • Be yourself and bounce back – people will talk, your behaviour won’t change that. Be true to yourself and inspire people through leadership.
  • Never be afraid to learn something and accept when a situation requires more attention or just isn’t for you.
  • Hold the door open for other women – empower, motivate, support, and more importantly help them grow.
  • Embrace the challenge and the risk, don’t be afraid to start small and grow.
  • You can’t prepare for every eventuality, life happens, and you need to face it head-on.
  • Owning a business is rewarding and challenging, as the saying goes, “nothing that is worth it is easy”

You May Ask Why Female Leadership is Important?

According to thewomenscode.com their research paper has shown that companies with women in leadership roles outperform all-male teams by up to 66%.

Female leadership has become better suited for the modern world to ensure diversity and inclusiveness in any leadership team and/or business.