A review of government initiatives to stimulate women entrepreneurship in South Africa : 1955-2009.
Worldwide, women entrepreneurs play a major role in the economic growth and development of any nation, yet women are still facing a multiplicity of challenges in the small business sector. Women entrepreneurs could play a more significant role in the small business sector given all the necessary support. The main objective of this study was to review the South African government initiatives that were designed to stimulate women entrepreneurship during 1995 to 2009. This topic is exploratory as well as descriptive in nature. As a result of this, qualitative and quantitative data was collected in order to address the research objectives of the study. A non probability sampling technique, known as snowballing was used to identify the research participants. The sample for the study was made up of two different groups of participants; namely women entrepreneurs and experts from the field of entrepreneurship. Data was analysed using content analysis. Although content analysis is often used for analysing qualitative data, it has a limitation in that it sometimes fails to interpret delicate and intricate texts (Denscombe, 2003:221). Because of this limitation, Kruskal Wallis and Chi square tests were used in order to complement content analysis. These two data analysis tools were adopted because of the non parametric nature of the research data. The main limitation of the study was that primary data was collected in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu Natal due to limited resources. In addition to this, the sampling technique used has a disadvantage in that the results of the research cannot be generalized to the population at large. However, the empirical results in conjunction with the literature review could assist in policy evaluation of the initiatives that could stimulate the development of women entrepreneurs in this country to a higher level. The empirical findings of the study revealed that women entrepreneurs are still experiencing a lot of barriers to entry into the small business sector such as access to finance, lack of entrepreneurial training and lack of information, just to mention a few. The results also revealed that the government support programmes are failing to address the barriers to entry that women are experiencing in the small business sector. In as much as the government is making progress in providing support programmes towards women entrepreneurship, the empirical findings also revealed that the majority of women entrepreneurs are not aware of the available support programmes that are targeting them. Lack of awareness of the available government initiatives was cited as the major reason why women are not benefiting fully from the government support programmes. Based on the research findings, it could be recommended that the government should review the current policies and programmes that are designed to assist women entrepreneurs in this country in order to evaluate the weaknesses and strengths that are inherent in the system. Future programmes should be designed based on empirical research in order to match the actual needs of women entrepreneurs in relation to the challenges that they encounter. This is crucial because women in the small business sector are a heterogeneous group with different needs and challenges. For this reason, a small business research foundation should be established with the core mandate of carrying out on-going research on the small business sector in this country.