Closing the Entrepreneurship Gender Gap
Gill Ingosi, founder of the interior design business, Brighter Spaces Interiors
Published on January 9, 2023
More women than ever are pursuing careers as entrepreneurs; however, women around the world still face gender biases and limited support from their communities, governments, and venture capital. In a recent survey conducted by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women,1 70% of women entrepreneurs surveyed reported facing gender stereotypes that have negatively affected their work and 49% said that these stereotypes have affected their business’ profitability. Global attitudes and gender inequalities in entrepreneurship are a significant obstacle to sustainable development.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women was founded in 2008 with the goal of addressing these inequalities and closing the global gender gap in entrepreneurship by “empowering women to start, grow and sustain successful businesses, so they can redefine the future for themselves and their societies.” To date, the Foundation has supported over 200,000 women in more than one hundred low and middle income countries.
The Foundation has five flagship programs, which are delivered across the world through a network of in-country partners, harnessing the power of tech and adapted in each iteration for the local context. Through the programs, women boost their business skills, learn how to access finance, increase their leadership and confidence, and more. One of these programs is Road to Growth, which delivers business skills and financial literacy training, builds participants’ knowledge, confidence and networks, and guides them through the creation of a plan to achieve their ambitions for business growth over the following years.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has partnered with CAF America for over ten years, as both a validated grantee and as a Friends Fund that can solicit contributions from US donors. Their Friends Fund helped the Foundation expand their US donor base and impact—in 2021 alone, the Foundation and a global network of fifty-seven partners supported 22,905 women entrepreneurs in fifty-two countries.
The Foundation continues to broaden its global reach, building out technological infrastructure to support women entrepreneurs remotely, conveniently and flexibly. With its award-winning HerVenture app, entrepreneurs can access learning content on managing finances, launching a business, e-commerce, and accessing markets. The app operates in six countries (with two added within the past two years) and has reached 65,000 users.2
One of the recent HerVenture users in Nigeria, Ene Adasen, Founder of Ene Naturals, shared that “the HerVenture app is like an MBA programme squashed into an app. I enjoyed the fact that it had tasks at the end of each module which you applied to your own business, and this changed my perspective on how to run a business.” By pairing the business training of the HerVenture app with her communications background, Ene strengthened her organic skin and hair care products company.
Ene Adasen is one of many women entrepreneurs who has had new doors opened for her with the HerVenture app. And, that’s just one example of how the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, with the support of CAF America and our generous donors, continues to work toward closing the global gender gap in entrepreneurship.
Profile of Impact
What benefits has your organization seen from a close relationship with CAF America either through your Friends Fund or as a grantee?
We’ve seen great benefits from our relationship with CAF America. Working with CAF America ensures our donors get the maximum possible benefit from their giving, through a trusted, world-leading mechanism.
Does the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women use the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for characterizing and evaluating impact?
The SDGs are a major touchstone for our work at the Foundation and we are committed to playing our part in working towards achieving them. The outcomes of our programmes, offering training and mentoring support to women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries, and our advocacy work directly feed into goal five: Gender Equality, and goal eight: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
There is a strong reciprocity in the relationship between the SDGs and women’s entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs will not be able to enjoy true equality of economic opportunity and participation without the SDGs being achieved and women entrepreneurs hold an important role in driving progress towards these global goals.
We know women are more likely to invest back into their families and communities. In fact, entrepreneurial activities undertaken by women are often borne out of a desire to improve their families’ financial situations. When women are financially secure, it often means greater investments in children’s health and education, in turn leading to increased life chances for the next generation and other incredible ripple effects. This is why women’s entrepreneurship must be prioritized.
What challenges has your team run into when working to support women around the world?
Women entrepreneurs everywhere face common challenges such as gender stereotypes, barriers relating to skills and confidence development, and lack of access to finance. These and other challenges come with cultural contexts that are specific to their communities, countries, and regions. Directing funds through CAF America to an INGO working with partners across geographies, enables a joined-up approach to removing barriers to women’s full economic empowerment, wherever they are.
What initiatives is the Foundation focusing on in the next five years and what are the organization’s plans to get there?
In March 2023 we will launch a new strategy which will also focus on the 2030 goal posts. This strategy will significantly see us powering up our work, reaching many more women entrepreneurs, building a stronger network of partners to boost our reach and boldly positioning ourselves as the convenor of a community of expertise on women’s entrepreneurship.
We will continue our advocacy work and will prioritise raising awareness about the impact that negative gender stereotypes have on women entrepreneurs’ success and the need for these biases to be broken in order that women can have an equal chance of success. We will also work to address the disproportionate amount of domestic and unpaid care work that falls on women.
About the authors
Mikenzie Penn served as the Communications Marketing Intern for CAF America. She currently studies Political Science and Sociology with a minor in Pre-law at the University of Dayton. In the future, Mikenzie would like to pursue a career as a lawyer. One of her main passions includes serving others and working towards achieving equal rights and equitable opportunities for all individuals.
Nick Harvey is the Assistant Director of Communications at CAF America. In his role, Nick works closely with our donor and charity partners to share their work and uplift the inspiring philanthropic impact that they are making in communities around the world.