Unlocking women’s earning potential in SA, and in neighboring African countries
, could entirely transform the economic and political landscape of the nation, but it won’t be easy. SA women face significant discrimination in lending when seeking startup funds, even for proven ventures. We need to open up the lending process and put an end to gender-based discrimination so that women can be equal participants in the SA economy.Barriers to banking
To understand why women face such pervasive discrimination in banking, it’s worth taking a closer look at the state of that industry in general. In general, SA banks have seen a decrease in bank board diversity
over the past decade, much to the humiliation of President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma, who is the ex-husband of Dr. Zuma, mentioned above, considers diversifying leadership in the post-apartheid nation to be one of his core callings – noting in particular how the nation’s top four banks fail to mirror national demographics. There’s no doubt that predominately white, male leadership in banking is hurting lending practices in a predominately black nation.New avenues for success
Certainly there’s a role for ultimatums and legislation in defeating financial discrimination against women in SA, but there are also alternative paths to lending that could benefit female entrepreneurs. One possibility is online lending.
Women who are pursuing a loan can inquire about interest rates
, repayment, and credit concerns online to learn more about what’s available and what kinds of loans they qualify for. One of the core benefits of researching loans online, even if you choose to borrow from a traditional bank, is that you can go into lending interactions well-informed, able to rationally dispute clear incidents of discrimination. Disrupting discrimination
As with so many things, education is everything, so women interested in entrepreneurship may do better to study finance rather than business – it could be just the advantage they need to push past both discriminatory and predatory practices. Starting in January 2018, women will have the opportunity to pursue a Masters in Data Science
at UCT, specifically designed to help individuals devise new financial systems for the digital era. Data science, more broadly, however, has many business applications, making this a multifaceted program.
With the combined knowledge of borrowing practices and education in data science, women could potentially be not just an economic force in SA, but open new financial opportunities for other women. While most people pursue traditional business loans through banks or the SBA, options like microlending
have particular potential in areas like SA where the cost of starting a business is smaller than in many Western nations. Educated women are well-positioned to begin microlending programs that will benefit their peers and eliminate traditional, discriminatory banking structures.
Zuma’s term is set to expire in June 2019, giving him slightly under two years to push banking reforms that favor women and black SA citizens, but it may be a hard push as he faces strong opposition. Women will do best to take lending discrimination into their own hands as they push for greater economic independence. Eventually, the rest of the nation will realize how vital women are to everyone’s economic success.