How inability to balance family, business affects female entrepreneurs

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. But they also remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Gender discrimination means women often end up in insecure, low-wage jobs, and only constitute a small minority of those in senior positions. It curtails access to economic assets such as land and loans. It limits participation in shaping economic and social policies. Also, it has been shown that because women perform the bulk of household work, they often have little time left to pursue economic opportunities.


It is against this background that Jemilah Abdullahi, a business coach, financial independence advocate and founder of the Value Added Women Facebook Community, identified the inability to balance family and business as one of the challenges facing women entrepreneurs. “Women entrepreneurs face a lot of challenges that limit their growth and success. Challenges like gender discrimination which sometimes come from men and even from fellow women, lack of adequate funds to start or scale, inability to balance family and business, lack of mentorship and many more.” In addressing these challenges, Abdullahi, who studied Mechanical Engineering from Madonna University and is passionate about empowerment and financial independence for all women, said: “There’s need for a lot of sensitisation and publicity so that women entrepreneurs and others around will know that it’s not just a one person issue because almost every woman I have spoken to has one or more of these challenges. With publicity comes help and support, in terms of funding, mentorship, breaking the discrimination/gender bias, etc. It’s not something one person can do and it’s also not to be left to the government alone. However, the government has a huge role to play in improving the situation.”

Role of government

On the role of government in curtailing these issues, she said “the government can play a significant role in curtailing the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs by implementing policies that support women-owned businesses, such as grants, loans and others which can provide the much needed funding for women to start and grow their businesses. “Also, the government can implement policies that promote gender equality and diversity, provide training and education programmes that equip women with the skills they need to succeed. A good example of this is a collaboration between government and universities and/or vocational schools to offer them training in entrepreneurship, financial management and marketing. “Finally, the government can create a supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs by establishing free or subsidised mentorship programmes that can provide women with access to resources and support to help them overcome the challenges they face.”

Business coaching

About what inspired her into business coaching, she said: “The first thing that inspired me to go into business coaching was the pain I felt whenever I saw women struggling and going through the same thing I went through when I started. “I struggled to make sales when I first started my business and I began to learn about business and online marketing so much that I had a monthly budget to pay for courses and books on online marketing. As I learnt, I applied it to my business and those of some friends and sisters and also shared tips with the women around me (online and offline) and gradually, I began to receive messages from women who found my posts quite inspiring and they asked that I guide them on how to start their own businesses or how to make sales. “Initially, I only shared free tips and organised free classes but with increasing demand, I decided to put a price to what I was happily doing for free and here we are”. Abdullahi added that she is greatly influenced by her background. “My background influenced who I am, who I am becoming and what I currently do. I was raised by my amazing mother after my parents’ divorce and so I practically watched her sell different things, from bean porridge, to snacks and even clothes to care for us. So, when I came online and saw women begging in the name of being divorcees, widows or single mothers, I just couldn’t relate because my mum didn’t wait for anyone to feed her children or pay their school fees. “I started by encouraging women to please quit the begging lifestyle and use the same smartphone to make money from home instead. It was from merely encouraging them to start and sharing tips on how they could go about it that I gradually began to organise classes to teach them how to start and grow profitable online businesses. So yes, my background greatly influenced who I am and what I do”.

STEM fields

The business coach stressed that there are a lot of things the government can do to improve women representation in STEM fields. “There are several things the government can do to improve women’s representation in STEM fields. The government can encourage young girls to pursue STEM courses by educating them from a very early age about STEM, providing grants and scholarships opportunities and also by connecting young girls who show interest in women in STEM for early mentorship.

“The government can also provide support for women pursuing STEM careers by offering them career development programmes, mentoring and funding for research and development and finally, the government entrecan address gender bias in STEM fields by implementing policies that promote gender equality and eliminate discrimination in recruitment and hiring practices.” She lamented that she was once turned down by a multinational firm for being a woman. “I was once turned down by a multinational firm from doing my industrial training because the head of the mechanical section (a German) said he doesn’t like to work with girls because he believed girls can’t do anything. Then I was just 19-year-old, I was shattered but determined. I ended up in another establishment and I was the only lady in the entire workshop so there’s really a huge need for policies and initiatives that favour women in STEM.”


She expressed dissatisfaction on the level of women participation in ICT: “I’m not satisfied with women participation in ICT. While there has been progress in recent years, women are still underrepresented in the field of ICT, so increasing women’s participation in ICT is important not only for gender equality but also for economic growth and development. “There is a need for various initiatives and programmes aimed at promoting women’s participation in ICT, such as mentoring and training programmes, scholarships, and advocacy campaigns. Also, more needs to be done to address the barriers and biases that prevent women from fully participating in the ICT sector.” On the number of women whose lives she has affected, she said, “I’ll say thousands of women because my readership on Facebook where I share a lot of free content is in thousands and I have also impacted a lot of women through my free programmes and resources. Hundreds of women have benefited from my paid programmes and resources too and I have loads of positive feedback and results. “I feel great knowing that so many women who never thought of having their own money have now become CEOs building their empires and this makes me want to do more,” she added. “I’m not satisfied at all with women’s participation in Nigerian politics. But I’m glad that women are beginning to take the bold steps and I hope that in the nearest future, more women go into politics and actively represent us at the local, state and national levels, because I believe that if we have more women in government, a lot of the challenges faced by women will be properly addressed and resolved.”

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