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This month we look at how women can grow in entrepreneurship, how to create gender harmony in your business and meet Leonie Finch and Unathi Nkomo.
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Too few SA women become entrepreneurs, but it can change

Why is it that, 24 years into our constitutional democracy which famously advocates for equality of the sexes, the level of entrepreneurship among South African men and women are still much less equal than the country’s economic peers?

Clearly, a progressive constitution, although it must help, is not nearly enough to ensure that women join the local community of entrepreneurs in equal numbers to men, says Gugu Mjadu, executive general manager: marketing at Business Partners Limited.

The latest figures from the 2017/2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which measures how many people are busy starting up businesses in a given year, show that 13 out of every 100 South African men are involved in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity, compared to just fewer than 9 out of every 100 women.

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Tips for creating gender harmony in your business

Humanity is hundreds of thousands of years old, yet it is only in the last fifty years or so that men and women have been moving towards sharing the workplace as equals. The feminist movement of the 1960s played an important role in driving this change.

The process is far from over, says Kgomotso Ramoenyane, executive director for human resources at Business Partners Limited, and it is inevitable that tensions will arise as old-fashioned attitudes clash with an assertive generation of women taking their rightful place in the world of work and business.

It is a process that business owners should actively manage so as to minimise tension between men and women in their business, and maximise cooperation and harmony, says Kgomotso. She offers six tips for how business owners can do this:

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August 2018 / Vol.9.7

IN THIS ISSUE:

Entrepreneurial spirit passed from mother to daughter, and taken to a new level

Looking back, Unathi Nkomo realises that she must have got her entrepreneurial spirit from her mother, although she was never really aware of it growing up.

Ever since she can remember, her mother toiled in menial jobs to raise her children on her own in one of the country’s poorest and roughest neighbourhoods, Nyanga, in Cape Town. Unathi knew not to ask for “things for myself”, such as socks. There simply wasn’t enough to go around, and besides, her mother prioritised education, sending Unathi to a school outside Nyanga.

So Unathi learned how to make money for herself. She would take a container full of sweets on her daily bus trips to school, and sell them to her fellow commuters and school mates. Her mother never explicitly encouraged her to do this, but neither did she stop her.

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Father and daughter a formidable team in cut-throat industry
 

For Leonie Finch, taking over as general manager of the family’s powder coating business was somewhat daunting not so much because she would be one of the few female owner-managers in a very male-dominated industry, but because she would one day have to fill her father’s considerable entrepreneurial shoes.

Today, after a few years’ experience of running Solomon Coatings together with her father, Tommy Solomon, Leonie can stand her full 1.5 meters tall for the contribution that she has made so far to the thirty-year-old family business. She and Tommy, who is now 70, make a formidable team in the cut-throat powder-coating industry in Cape Town.

Listening to Leonie tell the story of how her father started the business, it becomes clear that Tommy is a hard act for anyone to follow.

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