An evaluation of bank SMEs lending criteria and gender bias in Gweru, Zimbabwe.
Maponga, Stephen Enos.
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The contribution of SMES and entrepreneurship to economic growth is virtually an accepted truth the world over, but there are some groups that remain marginalised in this sector. Women are viewed as unequal to men and are discriminated against, a factor which also impacts on their ability to start and grow sustainable SMESs. This is evident in Zimbabwe. This project, thus, studies gender biases in the accessibility of loans in Gweru, Zimbabwe. Guided by feminist theories, mostly perspectives of liberal and social feminists, this study aimed to establish the existence or non-existence of bias, against women entrepreneurs, in the bank lending criteria. Positioned within the pragmatic research paradigm, this mixed method study was conducted in Gweru, Zimbabwe and constituted three (3) target populations. These were 1485 women-owned or managed SMESs in Gweru, 10 SMES finance experts and 10 bank loan managers based in Gweru. Positioned within the pragmatic research paradigm, this mixed methodology used questionnaires from women SMESs (319), as well as in-depth interviews with bank SMES loan managers (10), Finance Experts (10), to get qualitative insight into the circumstances of women entrepreneurs in Gweru. Having determined the reliability of quantitative data through the Cronbach’s Alpha Smirnov Kolmogorov, regression models and the Kruskal Wallis tests were performed on the collected data to meet the objectives of this study. As this was a concurrent, parallel mixed methods research design, the qualitative data from interviews was used to validate and add qualitative insights to the quantitative data. The triangulation method was used to ensure validity. Findings revealed four important sub-constructs of bank SMES lending criteria for women entrepreneurs. These included 1) partnerships and guarantees, 2) financial history, 3) business planning and 4) experience and specialization. The findings of this study showed that women entrepreneurs, who have male guarantors and partners, are more likely to secure loans than those without. The applicant’s financial history is also very crucial to accessing bank loans. Women who access bank loans can sustain their businesses, as they positively turnaround Zimbabwe’s economy. Future research should focus its attention on financial inclusivity of women owner/managers of SMESs.