Women entrepreneurs worldwide hit by Covid-19 lockdowns

These are testing times for chief executives around the world. With growing numbers of women CEOs, how they deal with the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on their companies could be revealing.

For some answers, we point to a recent global survey of women chief executives (CEOs) carried out by the Chamber’s IWEC Programme, that sought to find out how they were handling the crisis in their companies.

The survey’s significance is not only that all the results are the opinions and experiences of women chief executives, but its wide international reach.

The industries surveyed ranged from manufacturing to food and beverage to professional services, and from technology to construction to travel & tourism to name but a few.

The survey found that nearly three quarters of the women owners or CEOs were worried about the negative effect of the pandemic, but only a fifth had laid off a significant number of employees.

Two-thirds reported losing customers and supply-chain disruption, and the same percentage expected their revenues to drop. More than half the companies are cutting costs and re-examining their financial plans.

Overall, the survey participants were concerned not only with the immediate impacts of government requirements and business conditions, but also with defining the ‘new normal.’

Many are asking themselves, “How long will it take to develop a vaccine? What will people’s buying habits be in the future? How will international trade be impacted with supply chain and port issues? “Most believe their country’s economic recovery will not begin until 2021.

A selection of the responses shows the commonality of the challenges facing enterprises around the world. The following are a few of the women surveyed and their responses:

Monica Schimenes de Oliviera-CEO, MCM Brand Group from Brazil, said “My business depends on having people together in the same place – events.”

“All events are canceled, so we’re creating virtual experiences, home events, designing branded gifts for end customers, working more on digital communication and finding ways to sell things we didn’t sell before to try to have some revenue….”

Chandrika Chunital-CEO, Capital World Trading in Shanghai, China-oversees a garment manufacturing plant and deals in textiles. She is negotiating with suppliers to make partial payments now, with balances due within two months.

Her customers are asking her to delay deliveries, which is holding up production and raw material consumption, blocking banking support and cash flow.

To counteract, she is trying to find more local orders from industries that she has not approached previously. “If I am unable to attract the business, I will give annual holidays to my workers during this time, “Ms. Chunital said.

And in Bahrain, Dr. Lamya Mohamed-CEO, Dr. Lamya’s Specialized Dental Centers-faces challenges in medical supply shortages and an inability to see patients. Even as the lockdowns are lifted, she is concerned that patients will be too afraid to come to the dental offices for treatment.

In South Africa, Susan Louw-CEO, Chocolate Lace CC, has had to lay off 40% of her staff from her retail and manufacturing company. Her supply chain has decreased by 100%, as have customer orders. “Even if the COVID-19 were to end today and everything could open up normally, it would take us 3 – 6 months to get back up and running effectively and efficiently.” 

Also, in South Africa, Shona Alexander-Shonaquip Social Enterprise, which is focused on creating and distributing products for the disabled, is concerned that there will be less concern for those with disabilities. A third of her employees are disabled and all her customers are disabled. She fears a redirection of funding and support for the community.

Geoff Jacobs
President of the Cape Chamber