16 November 2021
Women entrepreneurs represent about one in three growth-oriented entrepreneurs active in the world today. In its 2020/21 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report: Thriving through Crisis - released today - Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that globally, 30.2% of women entrepreneurs surveyed expected to hire six or more employees in the next five years compared to just 18.7% in the 2019 report. According to the new report, the percentage of men expecting to hire six or more employees in the next five years is 48%.
The established business ownership rate (defined by GEM as owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages or any other payments to the owners for more than 42 months) for women is 5.6%, representing one in three established business owners globally.
“There has been a slow shift in the narrative on women’s entrepreneurship from encouraging a high number of startups to more focus on promoting higher growth activities,” said Amanda Elam, a GEM researcher, Research Fellow at Babson College’s Diana International Research Institute and the lead author of the GEM 2020/2021 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report. “Tens of millions of women around the world are making a significant impact. It is now time to work on the key promoting factors, like providing strong champions and role models, inclusion in influential business networks, and access to financial capital, that ensure women entrepreneurs and business owners, who are starting and growing high growth companies, can thrive.”
GEM, the only global research source that collects data on entrepreneurship directly from individual entrepreneurs, began producing reports on women’s entrepreneurship periodically beginning in 2005. In 2020, the GEM Board made a strategic decision – given the rapidly moving social dynamics around women’s entrepreneurship – to produce the report annually moving forward.
The GEM 2020/2021 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report showed that women’s entrepreneurship is a fundamental promoting factor of inclusive economic growth in developing economies. In low- and middle-income countries, 17 percent of women are entrepreneurs and 35 percent aspire to become entrepreneurs. Taken together, this implies that over half of women in developing countries see entrepreneurship as a path to a better future, compared to only 25 percent in high-income countries.
“One of the core, transformative promises of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals SDGs is to ‘leave no one behind,’” said Aileen Ionescu-Somers, GEM Executive Director. “Gender discrimination is one of the significant drivers of people being left behind. Time and time again, GEM research has cast a revealing spotlight on women entrepreneurs, producing data that is testament to the increasing resourcefulness, creativity and capabilities of women when it comes to building companies that grow and prosper.”
Pandemic’s Impact on Women Entrepreneurs
The report highlights how women entrepreneurs have been impacted by the pandemic.
However, amongst the surveyed entrepreneurs who reported recently closing a business, women were about 20% more likely to report a business closure due to the pandemic than men in the GEM survey. The largest gender gap was reported in North America and Europe, where women were 50% more likely than men to report closing a business due to the pandemic. Interestingly, the trend was reversed in Central and East Asia where men were more likely to report business closure due to the pandemic than women (37.7% vs 34%).
Globally, women and men were more or less at parity in reporting that the pandemic provided new business opportunities (40.6% vs 42.2%). However, women entrepreneurs were about 10% more likely than men entrepreneurs to see government responses as effective in low-income (44.1% vs 39.6%) and middle-income countries (40.3% vs 35.1%) but trended in the opposite direction in high-income countries (43.9% vs 47.9%).
“The pandemic has set gender equality generations back with the triple threat of small business size, heavy industry sector impacts and the additional burden of family care in addition to work demands,” said Jeff Shay, GEM Board Member and Professor and Executive Director for Academic Operations at the Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College. “Women entrepreneurs have shown remarkable resilience and ingenuity in adapting to the resulting business disruptions and new market realities. But public policies in many countries have still fallen short with insufficient support for family care, schooling and small business impacts.”
Trends from Around the World
As the largest ongoing study of entrepreneurial dynamics in the world, GEM research also highlights trends across different regions.
Rates of solo entrepreneurship were quite low for women in Central and East Asia with the majority of women entrepreneurs reporting 1-5 employees in each country. Women entrepreneurs in India appear to have felt the strongest pandemic impacts of the countries in this region, with two thirds of women attributing recent business closures to the pandemic.
Notably, the rate of entrepreneurial activity among European women stands at only 5.7%, compared with a worldwide average of 11%. Women entrepreneurs in Europe had a much more even distribution across industry sectors, with some of the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the Internet, Communications, and Technology (ICT) sector across all regions, higher than men entrepreneurs in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The Middle East and Africa region shows some of the highest rates of entrepreneurial intentions for women in the world. Paradoxically, this region also includes one of the highest ratios in the world of female-to-male established business ownership (Angola) and other countries with some of the lowest rates (Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman and UAE).
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region include some of the most vibrant, entrepreneurial economies in the world. For example, women in Colombia were twice as likely as men to report selling an innovative offering (45.5% vs 24.1%). Women entrepreneurs in LAC also have the highest business closure rates in the world: 20% higher than men entrepreneurs, suggesting a high level of volatility and uncertainty in their markets.
Rates of women’s entrepreneurship activity in North America have historically been strong. Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rates for women in 2020 remain strong at 13.6% in the U.S. and 13.9% in Canada—well above women’s average globally (11.0%). Yet, a gender gap persists, with women’s TEA activity at 80% of men’s and lower representation in high-growth sectors like ICT.
The countries included in the GEM 2020/2021 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report include: Angola, Austria, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Panama, Poland, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Togo, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.
Download the report.
GEM Report Launch Webinar - Thriving Through Crisis
We welcome you to join our report launch webinar on Thursday, 18 November at 10 am US EST / 15:00 GMT. Speakers are:
- Amanda Elam, GEM Researcher, Research Fellow at Babson College’s Diana International Research Institute and the lead author of the GEM 2020/2021 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report
- Wingee Sampaio, Global Program Director of Cartier Women’s Initiative
- Wendy Teleki, Head of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)
Aileen Ionescu-Somers, GEM Executive Director, will moderate the webinar.
You can register for the webinar at this link.
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a consortium of national country teams, primarily associated with top academic institutions, that carries out survey-based research on entrepreneurship around the world. GEM is the only global research source that collects data on entrepreneurship directly from individual entrepreneurs! GEM’s Adult Population Survey (APS) provides analysis on the characteristics, motivations and ambitions of individuals starting businesses, as well as social attitudes towards entrepreneurship. The National Expert Survey (NES) looks at the national context in which individuals start businesses.
In numbers, GEM is:
- 22 years of data
- 150,000+ interviews a year
- 100+ economies
- 500+ specialists in entrepreneurship research
- 300+ academic and research institutions
- 200+ funding institutions
GEM began in 1999 as a joint project between Babson College (USA) and London Business School (UK). The consortium has become the richest resource of information on entrepreneurship, publishing a range of global, national and 'special topic' reports on an annual basis.
GEM Global Sponsor
Babson College prepares and empowers entrepreneurial leaders who create, grow, and steward sustainable economic and social value everywhere. We shape the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge, skills, and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in organizations of all types and sizes. A global leader in entrepreneurship education recognized by U.S. News & World Report, our undergraduate, graduate, executive programs, and partnership opportunities are tailored to the needs of our world.
GEM Report Sponsors
Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women's Initiative is an annual international entrepreneurship program that aims to drive change by empowering women impact entrepreneurs. Founded by Cartier in 2006, the program is open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector that aim to have a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact. www.cartierwomensinitiative.com.
School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR)
HEG-FR is a trilingual public business school located in Fribourg, Switzerland and a member of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland (HES-SO). Its Institute of Small and Medium Enterprises houses the Swiss chapter of GEM research, which is headed by Professor Rico Baldegger, Ph.D, in collaboration with other colleagues from institutions such as SUPSI Manno in Ticino, Switzerland. More information is at https://www.heg-fr.ch/en/.
Founded in 1871, Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction and purpose. One of the largest women's liberal arts colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,600 students from nearly every state and more than 50 other countries to cultivate leaders able to address the complex, urgent problems of today. As a community of scholars, entrepreneurs, scientists, activists and humanitarians, Smith is changing the world. More information is at www.smith.edu.
Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)
The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) was created in recognition of the critical role played by women’s entrepreneurship in empowering women, creating jobs, boosting inclusive economic growth, and ending poverty. The Initiative, established in 2017, harnesses the public and private sectors to open new doors for women entrepreneurs across the developing world. We-Fi is hosted by the World Bank and its programs are implemented by six Multilateral Development Banks: African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank Group (World Bank and IFC). This initiative brings together donors from 14 governments. Within three years of its launch in 2017, We-Fi has allocated nearly $300 million in donor contributions to programs that are mobilizing an additional $3 billion to benefit close to 130,000 WSMEs in over 40 countries worldwide. We-Fi’s footprint will expand to over 60 countries in the coming years. More information is at https://we-fi.org.
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