The Impact of Covid-19 on Female Entrepreneurs: Reality Beyond the Numbers
The Covid 19 pandemic has been a new puzzle in the world for almost a year now. The rapid spread of the virus, which is still not fully understood, has halted and slowed down the pace of world development in all aspects – political, economic, socio-cultural, and others.
The pandemic is mostly talked about in a negative context, although some have seen new possibilities and opportunities during the time of crisis. However, we all agree that pandemic traces will be visible to the world for a long time to come.
Influential International organizations have been actively researching and evaluating the possible consequences of the pandemic since the spring of last year. In this regard, it is interesting to overview their assessment of economic development in terms of gender. As early as July, the International Monetary Fund predicted that a pandemic would pose a serious threat to women’s economic opportunities, causing much more harm to female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs.
What impact has the coronavirus had on women’s economic activities? The answer to this question is not simple and requires a complex assessment. Pandemic is still raging, but international organizations have already spoken out loud that the virus will leave an indelible negative mark on women entrepreneurs, their development, access to education, career growth, and professional advancement. The International Monetary Fund names the following as the main reasons:
1)The main areas of activity for women entrepreneurs are the social sectors, such as the service industry, retail, tourism and hospitality, beauty and wellness centers, and others that require face-to-face interaction with people. As a result of the pandemic, small and medium-sized enterprises run by women became more vulnerable to the challenges posed by lockdowns. Women entrepreneurs have relatively limited financial resources and support, making their businesses more vulnerable to external shocks.
2)More women than men work in the informal sector, such as helper/housewife, caregiver, babysitter, and more. Remuneration for such work is largely paid informally, so there is less protection by law and less support from social assistance programs. During the pandemic, a large number of women working in the informal sector were left temporarily unemployed and, consequently, without a source of income as a result of the suspended education process, closed kindergartens, and the stay of employed women at home;
3)Women are busier in the family. On average, a woman spends 2.7 hours more than a man on household chores. Women also have family responsibilities, including food preparation, child care, cleaning, and so on. Covid-19 has even led many companies to move to remote work, forcing female entrepreneurs to work from home and do other household chores at the same time, requiring extra energy and time from them.
This is just a small list of the difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs in a pandemic. The fact is, this is not a problem of any particular country or region – the economic stagnation of women in some countries is more pronounced than elsewhere.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, there are more than 250 million women entrepreneurs globally, 40% of whom operate independently without co-founders and employees. They are the ones that will be affected by the pandemic the most. As a result, more women will be forced to stop doing business, lose their jobs, hinder their entrepreneurial activities, and increase their economic dependence.
In such situations, the economic empowerment of women is crucial. Rapid and effective policies need to be developed to positively encourage women and create additional opportunities for them, including low-interest credit lines, tax cuts or temporary deferrals, intensive and accelerated training courses, and more.
Finally, an effective fight against pandemics is unthinkable without the active involvement of women. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a recent statement: “Put women and girls at the center of efforts against Covid-19. Women’s leadership and involvement must be at the forefront of efforts to recover from the coronavirus.”