Women’s Jobs Are 1.8 Times More Vulnerable to COVID-19 and Franchising Is a Suitable Alternative for Buying Self-Employment
Women accounted for two-thirds of those who lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 lockdowns between February and April 2020, even though women only accounted for 47% of the workforce. This is according to findings of the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) Synthesis Report Wave 1.
Furthermore, a McKinsey paper COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects says, “we can already see that the pandemic and its economic fallout are having a regressive effect on gender equality”. However, a retrenchment package can provide an excellent start for a woman to turn her back on the corporate world and buy her own franchise business.
With female’s jobs being more vulnerable than men’s, more women are using their retrenchment packages to look for new opportunities to work for themselves. Many are realising that Covid-19 may be the crisis today, but in the future, there will be other job crises – whether through digitisation or Artificial Intelligence – which will claim jobs and women may again suffer disproportionately. It’s likely as many as a third of all franchise operations are today run solely by women, with many more run jointly by female-male partnerships.
The franchise sector, which in South Africa is represented in approximately 14 different business sectors, represents the highest and most diverse range of entrepreneurial endeavours and is the most suited to lead the post-Covid – or post-digitisation – recovery.
While franchising also suffered during the lockdown, by being owner-managed few franchises closed or lost jobs – because franchising provides a resilience not seen in the corporate workforce. Corporates typically responded to the seemingly endless ravages of the pandemic by retrenchment and closures, whilst many the franchisors re-strategised and re-shaped their business formats to downsize their costs without losing invaluable skills and franchisees. This was often with assistance from franchisors to negotiate better rentals with landlords and service providers until the economy has gained some traction again.
Why franchising suits many women
Many women opt to become franchise owners for the same reasons as men, but the independence and flexible family-friendly hours characteristic of franchising especially appeal to aspiring female entrepreneurs. Corporates are struggling to adapt to flexi-hours, or even remote working during lockdowns, but franchising has long since perfected this concept. Woman can either be in the business fulltime or focus on their business for just a few hours a day, handling strategic development, marketing, payroll, and such, while delegating the rest to staff or other family members. Bear in mind this is all dependent on the franchise model and franchisor’s operational requirements
Then there are the usual benefits of franchising which benefit men as much as women, which are deeply appreciated by any untested business owner:
- Support: The single major appeal of franchise businesses is their unmatched and proven support systems. Franchise systems take the burden off the new entrepreneur by assisting with finding real estate, store layout, marketing, management training, human resources and purchasing.
- Securing finance: A feature of our still-paternalistic world is that many women still experience difficulties both in securing loans for their small business start-ups, and they receive loans, on average, well below the average of male-owned businesses. Many franchise systems will offer assistance to franchise candidates to secure bank-financed business loans, and some provide the loan themselves. Such assistance comes in the form of introductions, networks and in help with drafting an appropriate business plan in the form most likely to be approved by commercial banks.
- Customer service: Customer service lies at the heart of any franchising business, and women are commonly recognised for their more empathetic relations with customers. It is something women enjoy and direct customer interaction draws women to franchising.
Women also have inherent attributes which make them successful franchisees:
- Great collaborators
- Better organisational skills
- Tenacity and resilience
- Not afraid to ask for help – and a higher propensity to follow franchisor policy and directions
- Often more ambitious (hence the old cliché ‘behind every great man is a great woman’)