What you need to know:
- Women entrepreneurs have called for gender responsive lending policies to ease their access to credit.
- Banking is generally gender neutral but it leans more to supporting men.
- Gender responsive investments crucial to building women entrepreneurs’ capacity in business management.
- KAM chief executive officer, Ms Phyllis Wakiaga advised women entrepreneurs to capitalise on the association’s SME hub to hone their investment skills.
Women entrepreneurs have called for gender responsive lending policies to ease their access to credit.
During a September 29, Women in manufacturing webinar, Kenya Commercial Bank, Head of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Agribusiness, Ms Naomi Ndele, urged financial institutions to remodel their businesses to incorporate women’s needs.
“Banking is generally gender neutral but it leans more to supporting men…a lot of methodologies and policies are very restrictive. They do not favour women,” she said adding that “there is a lot of work to do in reviewing the lending policies.’
A Women in Manufacturing: Mainstreaming Gender and Inclusion (2020) report byInternational Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) and Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) notes biased outcomes of gender neutral policies.
They include disparities in pay, promotions and job security between men and women, while gender-specific requirements such as maternity leave were sometimes abused, leading to lower job security for women.
USAid Kenya, gender and inclusivity specialist, Ms Betty Mugo reckoned that gender responsive investments were crucial to building women entrepreneurs’ capacity in business management.
“We must be able to provide business incubator and accelerator programs that are women-friendly,” she said during the webinar jointly organised ICRW and KAM.
KAM chief executive officer, Ms Phyllis Wakiaga advised women entrepreneurs to capitalise on the association’s SME hub to hone their investment skills.
The hub, she said, supports incubation and acceleration of skills in manufacturing which are enablers to growing of businesses from micro to large sized enterprises.
“A lot of women are caught up in the informality or remain quite small for a long period of time instead of graduating from the micro to medium to large sized businesses,” she said.
She said with proper skills and adequate information, women entrepreneurs can exponentially grow their businesses.
On women in leadership, Mace Foods managing director, Ms Margaret Komen, identified an ‘impostor syndrome’ as a hindrance to women’s rise to influential positions in the SME sector.
The syndrome - constant feeling of inadequacy or feeling not good enough to take up a bigger task - stops women from aspiring for leadership roles.
“For women to stand out, they must stop feeling inadequate,” she said.
She identified lack of manpower with skills matching market needs as an impediment to sustainability of enterprises, calling for comprehensive consultation between the relevant government education agencies and SME stakeholders to establish a proper curriculum for training.
“There are completely new skills needed in the market and sometimes we are forced to source for the skilled manpower overseas,” she said.
Thika Cloth Mills, managing director, Ms Tejal Dodhia, inspired women into entrepreneurship noting that “women are good in manufacturing because they are loyal, disciplined and committed, attributes required in manufacturing.”
“Look out for the business opportunities and find your space. You don’t have to be employed,” she said.
Data from ICRW and KAM’s report indicate that women own 93 per cent of businesses in the informal economy, implying a significant contribution of women to Kenya’s economic stability.