Thriving Against All Odds


In today's dynamic business world, women entrepreneurs are undoubtedly breaking barriers and significantly impacting various industries. Their creativity and innovative ideas drive their businesses forward, foster economic growth, and initiate positive societal changes. Despite the impressive strides made by women in business, they still encounter distinct challenges compared to their male counterparts. 

A recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2021/2022 Women's Entrepreneurship Report revealed that the number of women starting new businesses decreased by 15% from 2019 to 2020. Moreover, women faced more challenges than men in starting businesses in 2020, except in upper-middle-income countries. According to the economic survey conducted in 2016 and cited by MEDAC (2019), there were 907,065 registered Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia. Among them, 186,855 were women entrepreneurs or women-owned businesses, constituting 20.6% of the country's total SMEs. Regardless of their undeniable potential, women entrepreneurs often face unique challenges that can hinder their progress. They require strong peer, family, and government support to overcome these obstacles.

Peer Support: 
One of the keys to success for women entrepreneurs is the support they get from their peers. When they engage with like-minded people through business groups or networks, it benefits them. This peer support creates a supportive environment where women can freely share their knowledge, experiences, and best practices. The knowledge they gain from each other is priceless. By learning from successes and failures, women entrepreneurs can make better decisions, avoid common mistakes, and seize new opportunities. The shared experiences boost their confidence and determination to overcome their challenges. Moreover, this peer support opens doors to valuable resources and opportunities. Through these connections, women entrepreneurs can access funding, find potential business partners, and get insights into the market. This helps them grow their businesses and compete more effectively.

Family Support: 
Family support is crucial for the success of women entrepreneurs. Balancing business and family responsibilities can be challenging, but having family backing makes a significant difference. It enables women to manage both aspects effectively and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams without neglecting their family roles. Emotional support from family members during the ups and downs of entrepreneurship keeps them motivated and resilient. Moreover, family members' understanding and schedule flexibility create a nurturing environment for women to thrive in their ventures. Extended family and close friends also play a pivotal role in providing assistance and advice, contributing to women entrepreneurs' overall success. Encouragement and belief in their abilities boost women's confidence and drive, leading to more significant business innovation and creativity. Ultimately, family support enhances women entrepreneurs' well-being and positively impacts their ventures' growth and success, making them more resilient in the business world.

Government Support: 
Governments worldwide are now realising the vast potential of women entrepreneurs in boosting the economy and driving innovation. To help and encourage their efforts, governments have introduced different programmes to create an inclusive environment for women-run businesses. For example, in Malaysia, there are several government initiatives specifically designed to support women entrepreneurs, such as TEKUN Nasional's Women Entrepreneur Financing Programme, Cradle Fund's CIP Catalyst Programme, MARA Women Entrepreneur Programme, Ministry of Entrepreneur Development's Initiatives, 1Wilayah Microcredit Programme for Women, Perbadanan Nasional Berhad (PNS) Women Entrepreneur Development Programme, SME Corp Programmes, and Women's Development Department (JPW) Initiatives. These initiatives aim to provide women entrepreneurs with the necessary resources and opportunities to thrive in business.

Government support for women entrepreneurs encompasses various facets, primarily focusing on financial assistance through grants, loans, and incentives tailored explicitly for them. This crucial access to capital enables women entrepreneurs to establish and expand their businesses, ultimately bridging the gender gap in resource availability. Moreover, skill development programmes and workshops are pivotal in equipping women entrepreneurs with essential business skills, knowledge, and valuable mentorship. These initiatives boost their confidence, enhance decision-making abilities, and improve overall business acumen, fostering sustainable economic growth.

In addition, governments also facilitate market access for women entrepreneurs through affirmative action policies, supplier diversity programmes, and networking events. These initiatives open doors for women-led businesses to connect with potential clients and partners, paving the way for further growth and success. By fostering an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, governments empower women entrepreneurs to overcome barriers and maximise their potential in the business world. As women entrepreneurs thrive, they contribute significantly to overall economic development and pave the way for a more diverse and prosperous future.

Ultimately, empowering women entrepreneurs requires collaboration from peer support, family support, and government support. Peer support offers a platform for knowledge exchange and confidence-building. Family support provides a balance between personal and professional life and emotional encouragement. Government support contributes through financial aid, skill development, and market access opportunities. We must strengthen and expand these support systems, recognising women entrepreneurs' vital role in driving innovation and economic growth. Creating an inclusive environment unlocks their full potential, promotes gender equality, and shapes a brighter future for everyone.


Arumugam Muthusamy
Sunway Business School 
Email: @email

Associate Professor Dr Shehnaz Tehseen
Sunway Business School 
Email: @email

This article was first published in The Edge on 16 October 2023.