Female Entrepreneurs Have Fewer Networking Opportunities in Bangladesh, and It Hurts Their Businesses
The number of women might have steadily increased over the last two decades in the Bangladeshi economy but they remain vastly underrepresented to this day. Afiya Sultana analyzed the relationship between gender and economic opportunities in Bangladesh to help us better understand why are female entrepreneurs not reaching their full potential and what is the best way to support them.
In the time frame of the study, women made up approximately 50 percent of the Bangladeshi population but only 10 percent of the entrepreneurs. 60 percent of female entrepreneurs owned their companies alone, while 20 percent jointly owned their company with family members. 15 percent had business partners who were often relatives but not part of the immediate family.
The author lists a variety of obstacles which hinder Bangladeshi entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, for example the shortage of skilled workers or the weak rule of law. Women, however, often find it more difficult to tackle these challenges because they have to deal with gender specific issues too. The first one of these appears at an early age: parents tend to invest their resources in the career of their sons and encourage their daughters to accept a private life oriented role in the family. The next group of issues arises when women try to break into the world of business, especially in rural areas.
Training and networking opportunities are scarce for females which means their companies have a lower chance of survival. Furthermore, surviving businesses are often not as profitable as they should be because women have less opportunity to advertise and sell their products which is regularly exploited by customers and wholesalers. Lastly, female entrepreneurs are more likely to be targeted by criminals as they are less capable of protecting themselves.
Based on these observations, Sultana offers a list of suggestions which could improve the opportunities of women in the Bangladeshi economy. The list includes reforming laws and launching awareness programs to fight social discrimination, making training, consultancy, and financial services more available to women, and providing them better education from a young age.
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Contributed by Bence Juhasz.