Digital transformation and financial hardship burden women entrepreneurs in a pandemic-ridden world

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Businesswomen in Hong Kong and around the world face greater challenges in the pandemic, a recent survey finds.

Women entrepreneurs have been harder hit than their male counterparts in facing the burden of adapting to the digitisation of business and education as COVID-19, according to a global survey on the pandemic’s impact

This survey, conducted by the World Business Angels Investment Forum, includes business owners working in diverse industries from over 77 countries, who shared their opinions on how the pandemic situation has affected them.

Women have been disproportionately vulnerable to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been attributed to the commitments they carry between taking care of their businesses and their families. There have also been reported cases of women who were forced to leave their jobs due to child care.

“This is an important detail particularly for women entrepreneurs who have young children at home… who are trying to finance their businesses and suffering from financing their businesses because of COVID issues. They have also another issue to think about: how they’re going to handle their small children at home who are trying to get an education online,” said Baybars Altuntaş, Chairman of the WBAF, at a press conference on the report.

Some of the survey’s key findings include:

  • 60 percent of people who lost their jobs in the pandemic were women
  • The gender gap for access to mobile internet is 23 percent
  • Higher incidences of domestic and workplace violence
  • Business, then education, are the two primary stressors for respondents

The experiences of Alicia Beale, co-founder of The Aftermath Bar in Hong Kong, during this pandemic align with the WBAF report:

“As a small business owner, the rise and fall of your business usually equals a similar up and down in your personal life. With no income, it has been harder to cover life expenses for myself such as rent, school loan payments, and even at times food. The stress from the uncertainty of this year has affected my mental and physical health.”

I think now more than ever we need the men to really step up and support women [and] for women to also support each other.

Swati Mandela, President of the Global Women Leaders Committee

Living in a digital world

Over 90 percent of survey respondents agree that digital transformation will be very important in the post-pandemic economy, showing an overwhelming consensus on the way COVID-19 will have a lasting change on business functioning. This will prove a challenge for those who have limited access to funding or digital tools. According to the report, 11 million students don’t have access to digital education or digital tools. Securing digital access for these people are key problems that the WBAF raises.

Despite all the hardships that entrepreneurs have experienced as a result of the pandemic, Swati Mandela, President of the Global Women Leaders Committee, said she was encouraged by the WBAF community for its “persistent” work in supporting women entrepreneurs around the world.

“I think now more than ever we need the men to really step up and support women [and] for women to also support each other,” she added.

Baybars Altuntaş, WBAF Chairman, speaking at a WBAF event.

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