Study Shows Lack of Ideas is Not What’s Holding Women Entrepreneurs Back



south asian women training
Participants at a recent training workshop for South Asian women’s business associations in Kathmandu.

African women are almost twice as likely to have a new business idea they would like to develop than women in Europe and the United States, according to a new study commissioned by Dell. This is further proof of what many of us already know – that there is no lack of ideas and energy among women entrepreneurs in developing countries. It is institutional barriers and local economic conditions that primarily hold back women who are looking to start a business.

CIPE and its partners have supported women entrepreneurs in a number of countries to make significant gains in increasing their role in the economy and their input to public policy. For example, women’s business associations in Nigeria have successfully advocated to increase their role in a national conference to review the nation’s governing institutions.

In Pakistan, CIPE and its partners worked to reform the National Trade Organizations Ordinance to allow women to form their own associations and improve women’s representation on already established chamber boards. The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry has successfully advocated for local and national level policies to improve access to credit for women entrepreneurs. And in Papua New Guinea, a new CIPE-supported women’s business association helped to establish a “women’s desk” at the largest commercial bank in the country to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to obtain bank loans.

CIPE’s women’s empowerment programs are working to improve the business environment for women around the world and increase their participation in the democratic process. These programs focus on four main areas: building the capacity of women’s business associations to advocate for reforms; strengthening institutions that support the participation of women in the economy, such as property rights and rule of law; educating women entrepreneurs on business management and representation; and reducing barriers to entry such as gender-biased laws and legal discrimination.

CIPE’s programs extend beyond helping or training individual women to tackling the institutional reforms necessary to achieve a long-lasting impact. Our partner organizations are working hard to improve the playing field for women around the world so that female entrepreneurs can turn their business ideas into a reality and have a role shaping the institutions that affect their businesses and their lives. And the more women are able to participate in the economy, develop business associations and build coalitions, the greater the opportunities for them to expand their civic participation and contribute to democratic reforms.

Julie Johnson is Communications Manager at CIPE.