The projection and recognition of the gender gap in entrepreneurship cannot be simplified or explained from the perspective of individual choices and challenges, but by an understanding of the practices and orientations of entrepreneurs shaped and determined by the macroeconomic and socioeconomic environment in which they operate (including deeply entrenched behaviors).

Mainstream economic thinkers consider entrepreneurship as “a gender-neutral” subject and they define an entrepreneur as a rational, self-interested, money-driven, market-oriented individual who has no gender, no class, no age, no family, no religion or ethnicity, and lives outside of any specific historical, social or geographic context.

…gender neutrality in entrepreneurship fails to understand the barriers and challenges faced by women…

The proposition for gender neutrality in entrepreneurship fails to understand the barriers and challenges faced by women and therefore limit the participation of women in entrepreneurial activities and contributing to socio-economic development. Such an imaginary and passive perception of entrepreneurship assumes that entrepreneurs makes decisions unhindered by socioeconomic inequalities, unequal distribution of power and income, and relieved of any family obligations or responsibilities. They (mainstream economic thinkers) focus mostly on market dynamics, financial and management issues while overlooking the fundamental attributes and uniqueness of women such as family responsibilities and reproductive duties (factor considered as important determinants).

An alternative framework is therefore necessary, as the gender gap in entrepreneurship will persist as long as the dominant powers that shape the context of entrepreneurship remain unquestioned and unchallenged. Change will only occur when entrepreneurship is redefined to bring forward and emphasise the potential for social change, instead of merely economic growth.


Yolanda Shields

To nurture this budding activism, Cornerstone’s faculty of Entrepreneurship and Economic Transformation will host its first Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation summit in Cape Town on 5 October. The summit will bring together women entrepreneurs with the twin goals of bringing new, passionate activists into women entrepreneurship, and provide training and mentorship for women entrepreneurs in Cape Town. This day-long immersion of learning, training and networking will emphasise how women can make effective change on the personal, community and national levels.

Keynote speaker will be Yolanda Shields, with over 20 years of experience as a business leader and who also does international workforce development and Social Entrepreneurship work in the continent of Africa and other Third World countries. She is a much sought-after speaker and trainer in the area of small business and nonprofit business strategy, project management, diversity, human capital management, career development, and social entrepreneurship and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, France and Africa.

Other Potential Speakers/Panelists: Yolanda Shield (Yes Builds), an international speaker and social entrepreneur, Tina Thiart, Patti Graham and Madeleine Mkunu, Laura Ndukwana, Dr. Judey Pretorius, Michelle Vooght, Charlotte Kemp, Warda Albertyn, Carol Gerber, Charlotte Kemp and Robyn Hey.

Light lunch and refreshments will be served on the day. For catering purposes, RSVP via emai tol nolubabalom@cornerstone.ac.za or call 021 448 0050 and as to speak to Nolubabalo.