Brazilian society has undergone a huge transformation in the last decades, including the greater participation of women in the workforce and an increase in the level of education. However, while women have higher average levels of schooling compared to men, there is still a significant difference in salaries received between men and women with the same levels of schooling: women earn less than men, even while working the same number of hours. There is also a noticeable increase in the number of households headed by women: 30.6% of Brazilian families are now headed by women. Those conditions have led to greater workforce participation by women, both in the formal sector, as well as through the formation of small and micro-enterprises.
Brazil has registered a high rate of entrepreneurship in relation to the size of its population, as can be verified with data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM BRASIL 2012). Among the 67 countries participating in the GEM sample, Brazil is in 10th place, with 30% of its active workforce, between the ages of 18 and 64, involved in entrepreneurial activities. This growth is impressive given the known difficulties of doing business in Brazil, as set out in a comparison among 185 countries by the World Bank (2013). Brazil was ranked 130th based on considerations such as the strength of institutions and the costs of regulation for entrepreneurial businesses. Unsurprisingly, SEBRAE data shows that 25% of all newly established firms closed before completing reaching the two years of existence mark (SEBRAE, 2013).
Among the factors limiting entrepreneurship in Brazil, participants in the GEM study (2012) pointed to Brazilian government policies including complex tax legislation and high tax rates affecting firms, lack of capital market support – difficulty in obtaining credit and high interest rates, as well as limited education and skills of the entrepreneur. In fact, a formal public policy to support entrepreneurship does not exist, though there are some initiatives to support micro and small enterprises, such as provisions aimed at encouraging specific economic sectors, though not resulting in much impact on the entrepreneur (SARFATI, 2013).
Among the population of Brazilian entrepreneurs, the proportion of Brazilian women entrepreneurs is in line with their workforce participation. Among incipient entrepreneurs, that is, entrepreneurs heading firms with less than 42 months of existence, 49.6% are women. Among more established entrepreneurs, the proportion of female entrepreneurs falls to 44% (GEM BRASIL 2012).
Considering this scenario, the investment of the 10.000 Women Project of Goldman Sachs in Brazil has been extremely fruitful. Since 2008, the FGV-EAESP has been running this project for underserved women entrepreneurs with great success. More than 350 women passed by the program, having lectures, consultancy, mentoring, networking events, fairs and chats. Their businesses were monitored and they could improve their revenue and hired new workers with clear evidence of beneficial consequences for their families and communities. Besides, the impact of the project also reached the personal life of the participants since most of them improve their self-esteem and they still organize meetings and networking events even after the end of the course.
The benefits were not only for the women but also for FGV and Goldman Sachs. In being creative and innovative when developing this program, the results were extremely valuable for the school. All the professors that participated in this project had to change their vision from big to small companies and concentrate their teaching efforts on a group with specific demands. Since the women supported by this project accomplish their objectives, Goldman Sachs Charity Funding also receives the visibility that comes with a successful project. The Project has been featured in different media including newspapers, magazines, television reports, websites and blogs.
Professors Tonelli and Tales have been conducting this project during the last 5 years and this experience has improved research projects at the Research Center on Entrepreneurship and at the Research Group on Organizations and People of FGV-EAESP.
Maria José Tonelli is professor at the Department of Management and Human Resources at Escola de Administração de Empresas, Fundação Getulio Vargas, in São Paulo. Dr. Maria Jose mainly works in the area of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management, with focus on gender and work.
Tales Andreassi teaches Entrepreneurship at Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo, Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV-EAESP), where he is also Director of GVCenn – Center of Entrepreneurship and New Ventures. As an educator, Andreassi has researched, written and lectured on various aspects of entrepreneurship and innovation.
By Maria José Tonelli and Tales Andreassi
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