Women entrepreneurs need to be encouraged
BANGLADESH has bottom-ranked among 58 economies in the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs for 2020, meaning the country is among the toughest places for female business owners. The highly lauded country for women empowerment ranked 57, just ahead of Algeria. Although the country slipped one notch from last year's 57th, its overall score improved to 36.4 out of 100 from 35.4 a year ago. Economies such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have weaker scores of 40 to 50, while Bangladesh, Algeria, and Egypt have also exceptionally low scores of 30 to 40 points.
In these economies, women continue to be held back by deeply rooted socio-cultural as well as economic and financial constraints such as lack of work opportunities, government support, and access to funding and capital. The index provides an analysis of how women in business are progressing globally, highlighting the socioeconomic factors propelling and inhibiting their success, and providing a performance ranking for the 58 economies measured. Bangladesh secured the last position in Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, which is a measure of women's progress and the degree of marginalisation they face commercially as financial customers and academically in terms of access to tertiary education enrolment. One positive take away from the report for Bangladesh is only 20 per cent women-headed and 40 per cent men-headed businesses are involved in the highly impacted sectors because of the pandemic.
What the findings make clear is that regardless of an economy's wealth, level of development, size, and geographic location, gender inequalities continue to persist - even pre-pandemic. What the Covid-19 did is that it exacerbated an already problematic situation. It disproportionately disrupted women's lives and livelihoods to a greater extent than men due to a few pre-existing factors: the jobs and sectors women tend to work in, childcare and domestic responsibilities and the pre-existing gender disparity in business.
Governments, financial services and business organisations should come together to enable women to survive and thrive in this new normal, equip them with skills to navigate the digital world and nurture an equitable, accessible financial services system that supports women's work and entrepreneurship.