It made for a startling discovery when I discovered (data –driven, off course) that there is a marked difference in the attitudes of female and male Small Business entrepreneurs. In the course of monitoring and supervising participants who were writing their business plans I was hit with a stark variance between both sets of entrepreneurs. This character trait, although seemingly insignificant, eventually cascades into how they run their business and then extrapolates into their businesses success.
This study was undertaken within a six-month period in the Enterprise Development Centre where I facilitate business courses. Data revealed that despite the fact that the Entrepreneurship Development Centre had an average male to female enrolment ratio of 65: 35 I found out that the actual submission of business plans by participants was slightly ten percent higher for females. (See Figure 1 below) This revelation made me look further and I unearthed the following attitudes which women have that men need.
Figure 1: Participants’ Enrolment and Actual Business Plan Submission in percentages
So what do womenpreneurs have that menpreneurs lack?
I crafted out a list that you may not necessarily agree with but it is the result of more than six months of diligent research and findings. And they are…
1. Pride in lowly jobs:
I was in a vehicle moving from Ojota to Ojuelegba along the ever bustling – never sleeping – Lagos mainland when my attention was drawn to the traders hustling – no eking out – their daily sustenance by the side of the road and guess what? You know already, women were 80% on the side lanes having makeshift tables and selling without an iota of shame.
It is worthy of note that this figure changes drastically when we compare male to female vendors who roughshod life on the busy Lagos roads with their wares on their head then the figure drastically changes.
However, this variation may not be unconnected with the hazards of on-the-road hawking of goods and the Lagos state directive banning this economic activity. Moreover, this set of sellers is usually younger persons between the ages of sixteen to twenty unlike the earlier scenario (roadside sellers)
Figure 2: Percentage of male to female roadside sellers
2. A Driving Force:
Something drives both men and women, but what drives women is more fitted to micro-businesses compared to men. Our dreams are big along with the engines that drive us, but the truth is that the informal sector of the economy contributes more than 50% of Nigeria’s Gross National Product (GNP)1 and more women have rolled up their sleeves to work in this sector.
3. Grit & Resilience:
I brought this (and the above issues) to the focus of my colleagues when I asked them in January if they noticed that more women stuck around in our offices than men? Pardon me womenfolk but let us be frank, more men know how to operate a computer and use Microsoft Office than women but the persistence of women means that they stick around and finish their business plans with computer software tools that they are not overly familiar with. The men? They pop in and out and fizzle out, usually never completing their plans.
It is the women participants who usually stay a longtime after classes have closed to work on their business plans. Yes, some of them have husbands and children to attend to but somehow they find the time to do something they know is important to the success of their enterprise. For six months I don’t recall seeing a male participant doing “overtime”.