Women entrepreneurship, its barriers, challenges, need for support are often underlined, and targeted by support measures. Most of the discussion focuses on the gender bias, so called „glass ceiling” preventing women access to meaningful positions and business areas, the discrimination related to access to financing and different treatment of women entrepreneurs related to social norms and conscious or unconscious associations with specific roles, professions, behaviours, or abilities. All those aspects contribute to making women entrepreneurship really challenging.
But is women entrepreneurship really different? Isn’t the essence of entrepreneurship in taking risk and hustling to break existing barriers and do what was not done before?
Of course, women are not the only social group facing specific barriers in the business world. So, what are the characteristics that make women entrepreneurship different? Following the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Entrepreneurship Report there is several differences not only regarding the business opportunities, but also the types of businesses or motivations behind becoming entrepreneurs (GEM 2021/2022):
- In general women start their ventures later in life than men.
- Only 5% of women with entrepreneurial intentions proceed to open a business vs. 11.5% among men, which can be potentially related to women-specific entrepreneurship barriers.
- Women tend to have lower business exit levels than men (3.6% women vs. 4.4% men).
- Women in upper–middle-income countries represented about one-third of all entrepreneurs starting high-growth businesses, both in terms of job creation for starting companies (20+ employees) and regarding the employment expected within five years (20+ hires).
- Regarding the women businesses sector engagement, almost half of women entrepreneurs worldwide engage in the Wholesale/Retail sector and one in five in the Government, Health, Education & Social Services sector (18.5% women versus 10.1% men). However, only 2.7% of women compared to 4.7% of men are starting businesses in Information, Computers & Technology (ICT), the sector that draws most venture capital funds worldwide, showing women key focus on areas with lower gender bias and funding barriers.
- The most common motivation for EU women to open their business is job-scarcity.
- Women entrepreneurs more often quote making a difference as a startup motivation and much more rarely building wealth.
- Women-led startups are diverse and extend far beyond traditional definitions of growth-oriented, profit-seeking entrepreneurship (GEM 2021/2022).
So, despite the women specific barriers, women have significant drive to open a business and their impact on job creation and growth of many sectors is significant. But the women-driven businesses are usually a response to the lack of job prospects on the market or their drive to make the difference, rather than to simply generate wealth. As such, there are also more stable with lowest exit rates than among their male peers and providing (beyond economic value) more socially and environmentally responsive initiatives, increasing business diversity, innovativeness and outreach.