Women business owners: SA needs you

Women business owners: SA needs you

IN LIGHT of International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on March 8, with the theme “Each for Equal”, it is important to encourage more women to go into business.

When the disparity of too few female-owned businesses is addressed, it will help stimulate much-needed economic activity and have a hand in tackling local challenges like unemployment and poverty. This is according to Gugu Mjadu, the executive general manager for Business Partners Limited, a business loan and equity service provider, and 2019 Gold winner: SME Bank of the Year (Africa). She said that there are simply not enough female-owned businesses in South Africa at present.

“There has been a marked decline of female ownership of micro-, small- and medium businesses in South Africa, with female-owned businesses decreasing by 10% from 48% in 2008 to just 38% in 2017, according to a World Bank Report. Considering South Africa’s recently released GDP figures, which showed a drop of 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2019, we can’t afford to have more than half of the country’s population not engaging in entrepreneurial activity,” Mjadu said.

She said that once we start seeing more woman-owned businesses, it will help our society as a whole to become more accepting of women in leadership positions, alleviating restrictive expectations on them by cultural and societal norms. “Women bring a particular set of unique skills to business that their male counterparts may not exhibit, adding a new perspective and approach to the business decision-making space. This can include a more nuanced view of risk, greater creativity, seeing different gaps in the market and prioritising collaboration, according to research.”

Growing the number of women-owned businesses will also help to alleviate poverty, according to her. “Poverty affects women more than men due to factors like a disproportionate burden of unpaid work and childcare responsibilities. By creating wealth among women, it will help to end the poverty cycle and create a more equal society.” She added that having more women in business can increase job opportunities to combat the high unemployment rate, which stands at 29.1%. “This is shown through the employment power of the small- and medium-sized enterprise sector, which accounts for 47% of the workforce.”

A shining example of a female business owner, who overcame many adversities, is Business Partners Limited’s client, Abegail Nakedi, who faced late payments and early staff resignations when she quit her corporate job to take over a preschool. Nakedi, who describes herself as a go-getter, said that while starting her own business turned out to be much harder than she thought, she still would not exchange it for anything. “My advice for other women business owners is to believe in yourself and face your challenges head on – you’ll be much more resilient for it,” she said. “Never stop trying and keep educating yourself and learn from your mistakes to improve on who you are becoming in the journey,” she said.

Supplied by MSL.

A proactive approach to managing mental health

A proactive approach to managing mental health

While there have been important strides in recognising mental illness as a legitimate health concern, many employers are not equipped to deal with the mental health of their employees adequately.

Every year, absenteeism and reduced productivity cost companies inordinate sums of money. The flip side of the coin is stigmatisation of employees, and unfair and discriminatory practices. 

Aadil Patel, the head of the employment practice at legal firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said employers need to be more proactive about employee mental health. 

Mental health is a broad term referring to a host of mental and emotional conditions. “Most companies have felt the consequence of untreated or poorly managed mental health conditions among employees in one way or another,” he said. 

Similarly, many employees have felt alone in their battle against mental illness. Many have lost their jobs, some their careers and families, and in other cases their lives. 
Legislation means that employees enjoy protection against discrimination and unfair dismissal because of mental illness, but stigma exists over and beyond the legal framework that protect employees, said Patel.

Because of this, many employees would rather remain quiet about mental health issues than suffer the humiliation that could occur in a company that does not have a proactive programme in place, he added.

“Every year mental health awareness campaigns provide evidence that society in general is becoming more enlightened regarding mental illness. The next step is proactive and constructive discussions between management and employees,” said Patel.

Besides being the right thing to do, having processes in place to pre-empt, mitigate and manage mental health challenges can go a long way towards reducing the impact on company and employee productivity.

“There are many things that employers can do to be proactive. These start with driving a culture of positivity and openness where employees feel safe to speak to their managers and human resources departments. Positive language is the starting point,” he said. 

He said that one of the most effective ways of creating and supporting a culture of non-discrimination around mental illness is introducing employee training and awareness programmes that seek to destigmatise the issue, but also enlighten employees about support structures or programmes that they may not otherwise know existed.

“A company could consider introducing a dedicated counselling service for its employees. Reviewing the absenteeism policy and keeping it in line with the mental health training and support structure is another important step in not only protecting the rights of employees, but also in helping to reduce the hours lost to mental illness,” Patel said.

He advised that mental illness, like many other diseases, can be managed and treated successfully. Many companies have already established programmes to assist employees deal with mental illness or symptoms related to their conditions. It is important to equip these programmes properly so that they have the desired effect, he said.

The workplace environment itself may be a trigger for mental illness. A proactive approach to managing the work environment of employees could go a long way towards reducing unwanted incidents and related absenteeism.

Companies should be alert to the crossover between absenteeism and disciplinary proceedings, said Patel, as a potential claim could well go against a company if it is found that a suspension or dismissal was automatically unfair because it most likely occurred as a result of a mental illness, not as a result of work-related transgressions.

Pin It on Pinterest