#BreakTheBias this International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day theme, #BreakTheBias, asks all of us to call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping, fundamental barriers to achieving gender equality.

Our CEO, Helen McEachern, discusses our work to  #BreakTheBias for women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries—because we won’t wait 268 years for women to have economic equality.

Join us this International Women’s Day to #BreakTheBias for women entrepreneurs.

In 2021 the Foundation increased our efforts to tackle gender stereotypes with the publication of our new survey report ‘Gender Stereotypes and Their Impact on Women Entrepreneurs‘. The responses we gathered from over 200 women entrepreneurs show that, unsurprisingly, gender stereotypes affect most women entrepreneurs from an early age, and go on to shape women’s journeys to entrepreneurship, with a lasting impact on their aspirations, opportunities and confidence.

It’s difficult to escape gender bias when it is so widespread. Our report found that gender stereotypes are often perpetuated within the home. Many respondents (75%) experienced gender stereotypes from family members. Fundiswa, an entrepreneur from Nigeria, noted that “much of the care work has become the sole responsibility for women, which makes it harder to participate in economic activities that will benefit them.” This was echoed by many other women – the feeling of being made to choose between being perceived as a ‘good’ mother and wife, or their career ambitions.

Yet, some respondents highlighted that their experiences differed, which has empowered them to break the gender bias. One such entrepreneur, Annie from Zambia, stated that “being raised by a single mother who is an entrepreneur gave me the zeal.” This sentiment was reflected by others, including Famodun from Nigeria, who stipulated that “while the pandemic has affected gender stereotypes in my society, women have still been the breadwinners of most homes in my country.” Indeed, most survey respondents (70%) reported knowing a woman entrepreneur when they were children, suggesting that role models can have a powerful influence on women’s motivation to become an entrepreneur.

Our survey report also found women entrepreneurs experienced intersecting discrimination or stereotypes based on factors including age (37%), social class (29%), and ethnicity (22%). One entrepreneur from Bhutan, Chokey, raised that she has also faced discrimination along her entrepreneurship journey due to her mental health issues. Such experiences stress the importance of tackling gender stereotypes whilst recognising intersecting factors that undermine women’s opportunities and rights as entrepreneurs.

This International Women’s Day thus provides a critical opportunity to strengthen the collective action to tackle gender stereotypes.  We recommend individuals and organisations:

1) Increase understanding of how gender stereotypes shape women’s lives, including entrepreneurship, economic participation, division of unpaid care work, and empowerment

2) Raise awareness about how gender stereotypes shape economic participation and entrepreneurship. Campaign and advocate with others to deconstruct gender stereotypes and promote gender equality.

3) Take concrete measures to prevent and eliminate gender stereotypes and their negative impacts, both in private and public spheres, in order to #BreakTheBias.

Gender Stereotypes and Their Impact on Women Entrepreneurs

Read our survey report, which highlights and suggests ways to tackle the gender stereotypes that shape women’s journeys to and through entrepreneurship.

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Gender stereotypes