No country can flourish by neglecting the potential of its women workforce. With economic liberalisation and globalisation, the number of women entrepreneurs is increasing globally. The latent entrepreneurial capabilities of women have been gradually coming to the fore with the developments in socio-political environment in society, and in this respect, South Africa is no exception.
The digital revolution, characterised by artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and mobile robotics could improve female participation in economic life and enhance the economic and social autonomy of women. Digital technologies could help more women access new markets, work flexibly and distantly, acquire and interact with customers, receive training and provide mentoring, improve financial autonomy and access finance for their ventures.
There are plenty of successful women entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors in our country. Their outstanding performance in their respective fields has set an example for various emerging women entrepreneurs. However, they face a large number of challenges including male domination, family obligations, lack of education, poor self-confidence, financial problems, reduced mobility and limited managerial skills.
Often, women possess superior social skills, that can result in attractive entrepreneurial rewards in the digital age. Such social skills feature predominantly in jobs that women excel in and include competencies such as a heightened sense of responsibility towards the wider community, greater empathy, more effective communication and a greater willingness to adapt to changing circumstances.
Skill, adaptability and knowledge in business are the main drivers for women to undertake new business ventures. The female social skills advantage could be developed even further if complemented by competencies in abstract or cognitive skills and advanced digital literacy, which is a core requirement in the digital age.
Technology, particularly the information and communication technology, is viewed as a potent force in transforming social, economic and political life across the globe. In many instances, the continuous development and application of technology has created vast new economic and employment opportunities. Most developing countries are harnessing the use of technology to accelerate their development processes.
In order to meet the technological challenge, there is a need for development strategies that combine new technological capacity with investments in a broad variety of traditional and nontraditional economic sectors. These strategies need to be supported by improvements in education, skills development and vocational training. Training in the use of technology is essential and a key step in taking advantage of emerging economic opportunities. Both are critical for creating greater opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
There is growing global consensus on women’s economic empowerment as a force multiplier for good governance, economic growth, poverty eradication, ending hunger and achieving food security and nutrition, achieving sustainable consumption and production patterns and environmental sustainability.