In entrepreneurship, women have demonstrated their capacity to start, grow and lead businesses just as well (sometimes even better) than men. The Inaugural Upstart 25, CNBC’s first ever list of promising start-ups, featured a diverse group of companies that are building brands and breaking industrial barriers on the path to becoming household names. Of these 25 companies drawn from 5 countries and 8 US states, 10 (40%) had female founders.
The BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report of 2016 surveyed 2,600 high and “ultra-high” net worth entrepreneurs from 18 countries and we found that companies helmed by women entrepreneurs had 13% higher revenues than those run by men, and finished 9% above the average entrepreneur.
Also, 90% of female entrepreneurs expected their profits to rise, compared to an average of 58% of all entrepreneurs, leading to the conclusion that female entrepreneurs were more “ambitious and successful” than male entrepreneurs.
What makes the data presented above much more remarkable, is the apparent dearth of female entrepreneurs globally. It forces us to imagine the far reaching social and economic impact that could be made if more females were in the entrepreneurial pool.
According to figures published in 2014 by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS), women accounted for just under one-third of the self-employed. Between 2009 and 2014 the number of self-employed women increased by 34% − more than double the increase in the rate of self-employed men for the same period.
Although the gap is closing, there are still far more male entrepreneurs than females. In Ireland, men outnumber women by more than two to one in starting businesses each year. Only 10% of the high-potential start-ups backed by Enterprise are women led enterprises. This low percentage of women in entrepreneurship is at odds with the high educational attainment of women in Ireland – more than half of women aged 25 – 34 years hold a third-level educational qualification.
Research based in Sweden and condensed into infographic titled: Men vs. Women Entrepreneurs, compiled by Zervant in 2015, established that 42% of women could imagine themselves as entrepreneurs as against 56% of men. It also demonstrated that 7 out of 10 sole traders are men, 36% of women started their own businesses in 2012 as against 64% men. Only 3 industries (health and social care, personal and cultural services, and education) were dominated by women, while the rest of the industries surveyed were dominated by men, with as low as zero to less than 2% females in industries such as energy, environment and construction.
According to the 2012 US Census Bureau’s Survey of Small Business Owners for Women, 9.9 million women-owned businesses, up from 7.8 million in 2007 — a 28% jump. This indicated that women-owned businesses in the US represented 36% of all businesses, up from 30% in 2017, with revenues growing up to $1.6 trillion, up from $1.2 trillion in 2017 – a solid 35% increase in revenues. While the US story might be a bit more sanguine, it doesn’t change the fact that a lot still needs to be done for female entrepreneurship to reach full potential, as clearly, what’s good for us is good for the world.
These compel questions such as: what really holds much of these talented and ambitious women back from contributing their quota to the success stories of the business world? How positively different would the economies of most nations and the world be if there were more female entrepreneurs?
Research attempts to answer these questions, and most government and civil societies attempt to invite more women into the business world, I would be quick to point out that this challenge should be seen and treated as a national problem that affects the growth and development of the economy, rather than as a “woman’s problem” to be solved for the benefit of women and to address issues of inequality.