Capital ‘key challenge’ for women entrepreneurs

LIKE young entrepreneurs, women who run their own businesses need access to capital, too. A party-list group is urging the government to come up with strong and solid policies in micro-financing to boost entrepreneurship among women.

Ma. Socorro Malitao, founder and national president of Aral Party-list, identified access to micro-finance among the factors that hinder the growth of women entrepreneurship in the country, on top of other concerns such as the “traditional” gender roles.

“Most entrepreneurs starting small businesses in the Philippines have difficulty acquiring capital,” said Malitao during the session on women entrepreneurship last Thursday at the conference of the Confederation of Asia Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry at the Radisson Blu hotel.

Despite society’s wide acceptance of women in business and the corporate world, Malitao said that in general, Filipino women have less personal financial assets than men. For them to get the opportunity and be considered equally capable individuals, they must secure additional resources.

She said if women are given more resources at start-up, they would have better chances to succeed compared with those with fewer resources, like social position, skill and funds.

Malitao said they want financial institutions to be “friendlier” to women micro-entrepreneurs. Some of the action plans the party-list group recommends are the creation of gender-specific windows in financial institutions and gender-sensitive programs that would help meet the needs and accommodate the reproductive and
productive roles of female entrepreneurs.

The group also seeks support for group-based savings and credit organizations, such as women’s associations.

“Women today are more willing to take up activities that were once considered the territory of men, and have proved that they are second to no one with respect to their contributions to the growth of the economy,” she said.

Malitao said that in the Philippines, there is a growing involvement among women in business.

A 2010 Apec survey revealed that Filipino women own 45 percent of the business enterprises in the country. The study further showed that 69 percent of Filipino women are active in starting new businesses; 51 percent run the business within the first 3.5 years; and 34 percent of Filipino women own an established business.

Most of the businesses owned by Filipino women entrepreneurs are in distribution, trading, forwarding, commercial services, and retailing.

Aside from financial assistance, Malitao also said other challenges faced by
entrepreneurs include the lack of research and development, and inadequate access to technology. But despite these barriers, she said women still manage to achieve substantial growth.

She noted that 51 percent of the entrepreneurs in the Philippines are female.

In the long run, she said, more coalitions will be formed among female associates, which would lead to the establishment of female business networks.

She also said many women entrepreneurs with home-based and service-related businesses will eventually shift to the information industry, making the “once male-dominated commerce to be one of equal gender appeal.”

The group also predicts that enterprises will also focus on women-related issues and policies.

“Continued efforts to better understand and address the barriers that limit women’s economic potential are vital for the growth of the nation,” she said.

One of the country’s successful women entrepreneurs, Teresita Yujuico, chairperson of Istana Foundation, advised women entrepreneurs to never cease growing.
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