Women entrepreneurs still at a disadvantage


A regional development specialist is concerned that the playing field is still not level when it comes to entrepreneurs having access to credit.

Addressing a Women Empowered through Export Access to Finance Workshop this morning at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency Pamela Coke-Hamilton argued that there were fewer financing opportunities available for women than men who were seeking to branch out on their own in business.

“It is generally accepted that women entrepreneurs face a harder time than their male counterparts in accessing credit.

“At the inception stage, while both [males and females] draw on personal finances or support from family and friends, the truth is that at the expansion phase, this barrier is reduced for men, but remains for women,” she said.

Quoting a 2014 report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Coke-Hamilton revealed that females occupied, “low-technology, highly competitive sectors”, which had limited opportunities for wealth generation and were viewed as “less attractive” to finance providers.

“We must . . . ask ourselves whether our educational systems should not be doing more to educate our young girls and women in new sectors such as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields which continue to attract males, but this is where opportunities for growth lies,” Coke-Hamilton added.

She further suggested that female entrepreneurs in the Caribbean should seek to move away from the informal economy, which prevents them from acquiring credit from financial providers and stilts the growth of their businesses in the process.

“The failure to graduate out of the informal economy … excludes them from benefitting from the support that could help them to move past the micro stage of development; and of course a very common reason for women’s inability to access credit is due to the lack of collateral required,” Coke-Hamilton said.

Also addressing today’s workshop, Lisa Harding, the Caribbean Development Bank’s coordinator for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, reiterated Coke-Hamilton’s sentiments. She contended that “the disproportionate access to finance which women face, limits their ability to participate in and contribute to the economy and hinders the improvement of their lives”.

Harding also argued that the “under representation of women in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial space represents a missed economic opportunity for the region”.

“If women represent such a large proportion of our population and are not represented as they should that is a significant missed opportunity,” she stressed.

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