The annual celebration of International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight how women are challenging social and political norms. But it also serves as a stark reminder that despite some progress, inequality is a challenge many women face daily, not least when it comes to business – evidenced recently by #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns.
With female business builders making up nearly 40 per cent of the global workforce, any kind of discrimination is unacceptable from a cultural and economic point of view, especially when it involves failure to pay what is owed.
The impact of late payments on small businesses has been widely discussed as an issue that must be eradicated for all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender. But today, on International Women’s Day, we must shine a light on the areas where there is more to do to eradicate inequality
Recent research by Sage highlights that this discrimination doesn’t just impact women in large corporates. Indeed, it identified a worrying trend: female entrepreneurs are more likely to suffer from late payments than their male counterparts.
Out of the 11 regions Sage surveyed globally, women in six of those regions reported higher instances of being paid late. Importantly, this is not just about payments becoming overdue because 1 in 10 is eventually written off as bad debt.
In Canada, 38 per cent of women reported at least 10 per cent of their invoices being paid late versus 31 per cent of men. Similarly, 21 per cent of women reported at least 10 per cent of invoices are written off as bad debt (never paid) versus 16 per cent of men.
Small businesses are not able to absorb these costs or the lost hours spent on admin and the result can be disastrous. In the next 12 months, 1 in 4 female entrepreneurs will prioritise chasing late payments to be more cost-efficient, and ironically will become less productive.
From the moment they start-up, female entrepreneurs are faced with more discrimination factors than men – it is now endemic – and Canada is no exception. According to the OECD, Canadian women entrepreneurs earn 37 per cent less than their male counterparts.
The government, for its part, is trying to address the issue of gender inequality head-on. The Business Development Bank of Canada has $70 million of support level funding—with $60 million of that specifically being set aside specifically to be invested into female run tech businesses over the next five years.
The fact that late or non-payments is a more common occurrence experienced by female entrepreneurs is part of this wider problem. Women report more instances of sexist comments, disregard for their business ambitions and lack of female mentors as significant underlying reasons why there is now a heightened cultural stigma around chasing late payments amongst female entrepreneurs – more so than men.
There is no place for bias in business – all entrepreneurs should be free to pursue their ambitions without suffering the consequences of these cultural barriers that are encountered far too often – regardless of gender.
Now is the time to disrupt and challenge these harmful stereotypes and create a force for good, making sure that small businesses – the engine room of all economies – are paid what they are duly owed for the services they deliver to our economy.
Nancy Teixeira is Vice President of Scale-up & Enterprise at Sage.
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