Mastercard recently released their yearly Index of Women Entrepreneurs. According to the report, 163 million women were estimated to have started or led new businesses in 2016. This number represents a 10% increase in women’s entrepreneurial activity and a 5% decrease in gender gap rates between 2014 and 2016. This global upward trend is a sign of positive growth in female entrepreneurship.
The primary objective of the index is to rank female entrepreneurship in countries based on these factors:
- Women’s advancement outcomes – degree of bias against women as workers, politicians, and business leaders, in addition to their financial security and entrepreneurial desires
- Knowledge assets and financial assets – level of access women have to basic financial services, advanced education assets, and support for small and medium businesses
- Supporting entrepreneurial conditions – ease of conducting business, quality of local governance, perception of safety, and cultural perception of women’s household financial influence
The Index determined that the top 10 countries for female entrepreneurship are:
- New Zealand (74.2)
- Sweden (71.3)
- Canada (70.9)
- United States (70.8)
- Singapore (69.2)
- Portugal (69.1)
- Australia (68.9)
- Belgium (68.7)
- Philippines (68.0)
- United Kingdom (67.9)
This marks the second year that New Zealand has topped the index. Their score this year, however, was lower than it was last year. In fact, Singapore, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Thailand, and Peru all recorded some setbacks this year. Japan, in particular, saw a substantial drop in index score from 55.4 to 51.1. The report suggests this fall was a result of “a decline in the ‘Women Entrepreneurial Activity Rate,’” meaning that for “every entrepreneurial activity, only 1 out of every 4 is initiated by a female compared to 2 out of every 4 the previous year.”
Conversely, there were also serious gains made by some countries. Korea gained the most with a 7% increase. Additionally, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, Egypt, the United States, Portugal, Poland, Colombia, Russia, and Argentina saw score advancements between 2% and 7%.
In total, the results of the index offer some interesting insights into the state of female entrepreneurship globally. For example, the biggest barriers to female entrepreneurship are a result of gender bias, which leads to poor social acceptance and a denial of financial and educational resources. Non-discriminatory barriers stem from inefficient government regulatory practices.
Countries where female business owners thrive tend to have high percentages of business owners overall. According to the study, “the Index results suggest that women entrepreneurs appear to thrive better in wealthy and more developed economies where the component scores for women’s advancement, women’s knowledge assets and financial access, and supporting entrepreneurial conditions are higher.”
The only exception to this rule is the Philippines, the only middle-income country in the top 10. Its performance this year was “higher-than-expected” and will be a source of Index studies in the future.
Overall, the study shows a world that’s becoming more accepting of female entrepreneurs. According to Martina Hund-Mejean, CFO of Mastercard, “Women entrepreneurs have made remarkable strides as business owners around the world, even as they work to achieve their full potential. We believe that, by drawing attention to their efforts, we can further support and empower women in their drive to run successful businesses and lead richer, more fulfilling lives.”