Gender disparity is a pervasive issue even within the startup ecosystem. In Nigeria, this divide is apparent. The number of startups in Nigeria was estimated to have exceeded 3,360 in 2022. Of this number, only 75 - 15.6 percent - of Nigerian tech startups have at least one woman within their founding team. Not only do they find it challenging to spring up, but they also face stiff competition when it comes to grant funding. A World Bank analysis of start-up financing deals since 2013 shows that only 3 percent of funding went to all-female founding teams, compared with 76 percent of funding that went to all-male teams. In this piece, we will delve into the hurdles women-led startups face, how they can scale the hurdles, and how they can position themselves to compete fairly for grant funding.
Challenges Faced by African Women Entrepreneurs
1. Lack of Access to Finance
The first and most stiff challenge for women-led startups is the need for more access to funding. Women-led startups encounter difficulties in securing funding of all types, be it loans, venture capital, or grants. This access gap hinders their ability to start or scale their businesses, invest in innovation, and compete effectively in the market. This challenge is attributed to various factors, such as gender bias in the financial industry, risk perceptions, and limited collateral.
2. Sociocultural and Institutional Barriers
Sociocultural and institutional barriers present significant challenges to women-led startups. These barriers encompass societal norms, traditions, and institutional biases that can impede women's entrepreneurial endeavors. Cultural expectations, family responsibilities, and stereotypes about women's roles in business can discourage women from pursuing their entrepreneurial ambitions. Women are perceived culturally and religiously in Nigeria and Africa to be home builders. Some religions and cultures limit the capacities of women to develop and flex their innate talents
3. Limited Access to Training
Limited access to quality education and training programs is a significant hurdle for women-led startups. Unequal access to educational resources can result in gaps in skills and knowledge needed for business success. In many cases, women may need more access to entrepreneurial training compared to their male counterparts. This disparity hinders their ability to develop a strong foundation for their businesses, access valuable networks, and adapt to rapidly changing market dynamics.
Solutions to the Challenges
1. The key to solving the problem of gender-biased financing is creating gender-inclusive financial products, fostering financial literacy, and connecting women-led startups with supportive financial institutions. There are now lots of funding opportunities targeted explicitly at women-led startups.
2. The challenge of sociocultural and institutional barriers can be solved by promoting cultural change, advocating for policy reforms, and building support systems that recognize and celebrate the contributions of women in startups. There are more campaigns advocating against limiting the roles of women to the kitchen or family alone.
3. To bridge the gap in knowledge for women-led startups, training, and empowerment opportunities should be tailored to include and cater to the needs of women entrepreneurs. There are accelerator programs that now consider the delicate nature of women-led startups.
Remember, Zig Ziglar said success occurs when opportunity meets preparation. With increasing solutions emerging to address the challenges faced by women-led startups, what’s expected of them? Position their startups for grant funding. Here is how women entrepreneurs can do that:
1. Identify Relevant Grants and Funding Opportunities
To have an edge and to avoid competing as a rookie amidst pros, women-led startups should research and identify grants that are designed explicitly for women-led startups.
2. Have a strong Plan
Having a good idea is good, but having a solid plan and strategy to transform the idea into a worthwhile venture is excellent. This is why most funders are interested in financing MVP rather than just an idea.
3. Build Network and Connections
Not all grant opportunities are published openly; some are made available to a restricted audience—the more comprehensive the network and deeper the connections, the higher the chances of getting funding.
4. Consider Accelerators While Waiting for Grant Funding
Women-led startups can up their winning chances by developing their acumen with accelerator and training programs that equip them with the knowledge needed to compete fairly for grant funding. It also helps them build their portfolio.
5. Have a mentor
Having successful founders of women-led startups like Miked Cares as a mentor can be of immense help to struggling women-led startups. They provide valuable insights on their journey and how they overcame the barriers women face.
In the startup ecosystem, numerous women-led startups brim with brilliant ideas poised to make a profound impact. Yet, their journey is riddled with discouragements stemming not from their inability to innovate, initiate, or manage startups but from daunting obstacles like lack of access to funding, institutional and sociocultural barriers, and a lack of tailored training opportunities.
While solutions to these challenges are emerging, the affected startups must position themselves to benefit from the solutions. To achieve this, women-led startups must build robust networks, forge vital connections, identify relevant opportunities, and have strategic plans for idea actualization.
They can also explore accelerator programs and seek mentorship from successful women founders who can guide them through their industry's intricacies. To research the appropriate grant opportunities and accelerators that are bespoke to women-led startups without dropping a sweat, grant professionals like Grant Master can be of great help.