Much research has been done about female entrepreneurs in the United States and the challenges they face. Do women around the globe share the same experiences?
A comprehensive new report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor sheds light on entrepreneurial participation and activities among women worldwide. It finds a huge variance in overall entrepreneurship activity among women: The highest rates are found in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where 27 percent and 15 percent of women partake in entrepreneurial activities, respectively. By comparison, only 1 percent of women in Pakistan and 5 percent in developing Asian counties are entrepreneurs. (The U.S. is in the middle, with 10 percent.)
However, despite the diversity in entrepreneurship rates, the report notes that women entrepreneurs, regardless of location, share some common challenges and traits. Here are five:
1. Lower business formation rates than men. In all but seven countries (such as Nigeria and Ecuador), women lag behind men in business formation—and it’s likely in part due to lack of confidence that they’ll succeed, the report notes. Moreover, women typically own less-mature businesses. “In most economies around the world, there are fewer women than men starting and running new businesses, but there are even fewer running mature ones,” said Babson College Professor Donna Kelley, the report's lead author, in a news release. “This raises a red flag about the ability of women to easily transition from starting to sustaining their businesses.”
2. Likely to be solo owners without employees. Across the world, women tend to own businesses on their own, without partners, and be one-person operations. For example, nearly three-quarters of all women-owned businesses in developed countries in Asia have one owner. Men are generally more likely to work with one or more co-founders and have more employees.
3. Lean heavily toward consumer-oriented businesses. In every region of the world, at least half of all women entrepreneurs operate a consumer service business. While men also participate heavily in the consumer sector, they tend to be spread across a much larger range of industries, including business services.
4. Lower growth projections. Women business owners consistently expect their businesses will grow less compared to their male counterparts. For example, little more than one-tenth of women entrepreneurs in developing Asian countries and Sub-Saharan Africa expect to have more than five additional employees in five years.
5. More entrepreneurial activity than established businesses. In many parts of the world, entrepreneurial activity by women well-outpaced established businesses. In Latin America, for example, there are nearly three times as much entrepreneurial activity among women compared with ownership of established businesses.
The authors note that the findings suggest that much work needs to be done to support women entrepreneurs: "Where women believed there were good opportunities for starting businesses, and where they had confidence, ability and spirit for this activity, there were typically higher female entrepreneurship rates. Yet given that both attitudes and entrepreneurship rates differed for women and men in many regions, it is obvious that environmental conditions or constraints weigh differently on the sexes."
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