Resilience and Determination in the Face of Global Challenges

Exploring the experiences of women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries in 2022.

Resilience and Determination in the Face of Global Challenges

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Released for International Women’s Day 2023, our new report “Resilience and Determination in the Face of Global Challenges” highlights the key issues facing women entrepreneurs and outlines our calls to action for tackling them. The comprehensive report draws on responses from over 700 women in nearly 80 countries. 

With social, political, economic and humanitarian crises impacting people around the world, 2022 was a difficult year for many women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries to navigate. Those who participated in our survey reported many issues that negatively impacted business.

  • Nine out of 10 respondents (89%) told us that the costs of living crisis and high inflation had negatively impacted their business.
  • 78.4% of respondents reported that the economic impact of COVID-19 had negatively impacted their business, with 19.9% reporting they lost income.
"Improving financial support to women entrepreneurs may significantly reduce poverty post-COVID, where many male workers/professionals as the women's spouses lost their jobs." -A woman entrepreneur from Indonesia

On top of these challenges women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries continue to be held back by gender stereotypes and harmful social norms.

  • Half of respondents (49%) reported that they had faced discrimination.
  • Half of respondents (49%) reported their unpaid care work had increased since the beginning of the pandemic. The impact of unpaid care on women entrepreneurs is stark with 19% of respondents reporting that it has undermined business performance or limited the growth of their business.
"Unpaid care work has been a challenge even to my fellow women in my community, especially that most homes there have only single mothers. The same woman is needed to do unpaid care work and run a small business to raise a family, so they need support in their business to manage." -A woman entrepreneur from Zambia

The report also finds that accessing finance continues to be women entrepreneurs greatest challenge.

  • Nearly half (44.3%) of respondents felt that they did not have equal access to formal investment opportunities.
  • Only 38.9%, had received finance through a ‘formal’ financial services provider, such a Bank or Private Equity firm.
"The most important thing for women entrepreneurs is financial support." -A woman entrepreneur from Mongolia

Yet, despite this challenging backdrop this report tells a story of highly skilled, motivated and passionate entrepreneurs who are ready for business.

  • 83% reported feeling optimistic about the future of their business. Most women reported feeling optimistic because of ‘internal’ reasons, such as a deep self-belief, hope and passion for their business. Their motivations are deeply linked to the future prosperity of their families and communities.
"I'm optimistic because my business is making a difference and changing lives. I'm hoping to access government funding so I can reach more unemployed women and train them in recycled materials training." -A woman entrepreneur from South Africa

Our recommendations

We call upon the public, private and third sectors to take urgent action now to support women entrepreneurs.

  • Deliver high-quality, women-centred and locally-delivered skills training: So women entrepreneurs can access the support they need to build and grow their business when they need it and in a way that works for them.
  • Create a supportive policy environment: Prioritise women entrepreneurs and their needs as part of theCOVID-19 and economic recovery policies, recognising the systemic challenges they face and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis and high inflation – on their businesses.
  • Boost access to finance and markets: Design and implement more suitable and inclusive investment, financing and procurement options specifically for women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries.
  • Increase visibility: Make women entrepreneurs more visible by showcasing and celebrating successful women entrepreneurs and their contributions to economy, development and the wider wellbeing of individuals and communities.
  • Support myth-busting: Challenge gender stereotypes or harmful social norms relating to accepted social roles for women and men and the traditional division of labour through campaigns and communications.
  •  Recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care: through gender transformative policies and practices as well as more inclusive universal social protections.
  • Deliver safety and protection from VAWG: Ensure there are relevant policies and protections in place so that women entrepreneurs are safe at work and at home.

There can be no greater, or more important, time to invest in women entrepreneurs. They have the power to change the world for the better, for all of us.