Entrepreneurship research project, GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) recently released its 2021/22 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report. GEM’s survey-based analysis underscores the progress women entrepreneurs have made on a global scale, the value they bring to communities and economies and the resilience their businesses demonstrate when confronted with persistent challenges and instability. GEM’s research also highlights how women have leveraged chaos and change to create robust commercial and fiscal opportunities.
Key findings from the report showed that women entrepreneurs based in upper–middle–income countries represent some of the most innovative, high-growth entrepreneurs in the world, with an identical focus on international markets as their male counterparts. Globally, women exhibit lower business exit rates compared to men (3.6% vs. 4.4%) and are quick to pivot when faced with market disruption. Early-stage women entrepreneurs adopted new digital technologies in response to the pandemic at the same rate as men, but established business owners were 65% more likely than men to report plans of using more digital tools soon.
Despite encouraging progress, in many places, rules and systems designed to sustain a male-centric business community still encumber women entrepreneurs. The impact of gender stereotyping can mean limited access to critical resources and support for women hoping to explore entrepreneurial opportunities, but it can also unduly influence the choices women make about the types of businesses they start or the amount of investment activity they carry out.
Here’s a closer look at GEM’s 2021/22 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report conclusions broken into the five global regions it covers, and featuring successful women entrepreneurs from each:
Regional Women Entrepreneurship Activity and Trends
Central & East Asia
One of the world’s most populous regions, a broad spectrum of contrasting factors impact the development of women’s entrepreneurial activities across its many nations.
Of the four countries that provided survey results for GEM’s report (India, Japan, Kazakhstan and South Korea), Kazakhstan presented the highest intention among women in the region to start their own business, at over 50%. Women in Kazakhstan also reported significantly higher rates of emerging business activities than men, at 30% compared to 22%. Conversely, Japanese women showed they’re around half as likely as men to communicate intentions of starting a business — the lowest of all women in the region.
Women entrepreneurs in India stand out as the only group in the region to report starting businesses with 20 or more employees. However, women in South Korea account for half of the country’s businesses starting with 20 or more employees and 30% of the businesses with ambitious hiring plans.
Upasana Taku (India)
After working extensively in the corporate sector, Upasana Taku
left her position at PayPal to bring mobile payments to the Indian marketplace. When Upasana co-founded her MobiKwik digital wallet and payment service in 2009, only around 10 million in India transacted digitally. Today about 100 million Indians use her FinTech platform alone. Upasana has plans to launch an IPO for her company in 2022 or 2023.
Hami Kim (South Korea)
Musician turned entrepreneur, Hami Kim identified a shortcoming in the streaming music model and created KOOKY, a global social media platform designed to help artists better monetize their work while also connecting with fans. The company’s service lets artists host live shows with their smartphones, and offers fans exclusive content and the resources to build their own interactive communities. The company currently focuses on K-Pop performers but plans to expand its platform to assist artists in other music genres.
GEM’s report focussed on 23 European countries that, despite sharing high levels of economic development, present wide variations in entrepreneurial activities and market conditions.
According to the survey data, European women show the lowest rate of entrepreneurial intentions among global regions, with a range spanning 3.1% in Poland to 23.4% in Belarus. Similarly, the region’s startup rates are lower compared to other regions in the world but maintain a high level of gender parity. The Netherlands sits at the top of Europe’s startup rates for women at 13%, which is double the regional average.
Although women typically start and grow much smaller businesses in Europe, they contribute to job creation significantly in many countries. Women represent one-third of the early-stage entrepreneurs with 20-plus employees and expecting to hire 20 or more employees within five years.
Women also play a large role when it comes to innovation in the region, representing two-fifths of entrepreneurs offering innovative products or services new to local and national markets, and one in three presenting new innovations to international markets. Moreover, women were the only early-stage entrepreneurs of any gender in Poland and Romania offering innovations new to global markets in 2021.
Karen Pignet-Aiach (France)
After discovering her daughter was diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome type A, a rare neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, Karen Pignet-Aiach became determined to leverage her business consulting experience to make advances in the biopharmaceutical field. She founded Lysogene in 2009, a company specializing in gene therapy technology, and serves as its Chair, and CEO. In 2001, the United States joined the United Kingdom in approving Lysogene for Gene Therapy Clinical Trials.
Hildegard Helene Brandl (Romania)
After establishing her first architectural firm in Venezuela, Hildegard Helene Brandl returned to her Romanian birthplace to open Bucharest-based architecture studio UNITH2B in 2009. The company and its team of 20 architects were recently awarded THE CITIES OF TOMORROW Business Environment Award for its TRAM TRAINS Resita project, an urban mobility node for optimizing public transport in the western Romanian city of Resita.
Latin America & Caribbean
The seven Latin America & Caribbean countries that took part in GEM’s survey (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Panama, and Uruguay) comprise the highest performers of entrepreneurial activity in the world. But despite encouraging advances in economic development and gender patterns, there remains a large discrepancy in participation between businesses owned by men and women.
In 2021, 25% of women across the region were involved in startup business activity ranging from Colombia’s 14.1% to 43.7% in the Dominican Republic, where women reported startup activity 9% more often than men. The Dominican Republic also reported the highest rates of intention and emerging business activity for women, at just over 50% for both. But Guatemala showed the highest rates of early and established businesses for women in the region.
Over 70% of women in Latin America & Caribbean perceive starting a new business as a good career choice on average, nearly equal to the view men hold in the region. But there’s much less agreement between women and men on the ease of starting a business or the opportunities that exist. The exception to this outlook was reported by women in Brazil who shared the same view as men on the ease of starting a business in their nation.
Jimena Flórez (Columbia)
Originally hoping to bring organic techniques and sustainability to Columbian farming, Jimena Flórez ultimately started a business that would have an international impact and provide healthy snacks to 90,000 children per month. Her company, Chaak Healthy Snacks, creates nutritious and natural snack products that nourish children’s mental and physical development. Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, invited Florez to attend a Global Entrepreneurship Event in 2015, thanking the socially and sustainability-conscious entrepreneur for her valuable work.
Valrie Grant (Jamaica)
One of the Caribbean’s leading advocates of geospatial technology and location sciences (GPS and computer-based Graphic Information Systems), Valrie Grant founded data-driven solutions company GeoTechVision in 2008 and serves as its Managing director. After working as a geospatial analyst and consultant in the Caribbean’s public and private sectors for over 8 years, Valrie Grant saw how spatial intelligence could be better used to benefit government and business applications. Geospatial Information is a key element in addressing economic development, resource management and climate change. The company’s products span classroom management to mobility and tracking solutions.
Middle East & Africa
Encompassing a broad diversity of economies and income groups, the 11 countries that generated GEM’s findings for Middle East & Africa also boast several key benefits over other regions. A younger, increasingly educated citizenry with advantages access to large markets has helped women make significant gains in recent years.
Women in the region reported startup activity just above the global average at 12%. Four in five women indicated job scarcity as a motivation for starting a business — on par with men in the region — while 75% reported wealth building, and just over half reported making the world a better place as incentives for their startup activity. Women in Sudan showed the highest startup rates in the region at over 25%, while Morocco reported the lowest startup activity.
Women entrepreneurs in Middle East & Africa are more active than men in the sectors of Government, Health, Education & Social Services, Manufacturing & Transport and Wholesale/Retail. However, in the countries of Iran, Israel, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, women are more likely than men to report startup activity in Information and Communications Technology. Women entrepreneurs in many parts of the region are less likely to adopt new technologies than their male peers. However, in the countries of Iran, Morocco, Sudan and Turkey, women exceeded men in the use of digital technology.
But even though women in the region share many of the favourable attitudes towards entrepreneurship as men, their perceptions of the opportunities available are notably different. There is also an appreciable contrast in opportunity recognition between countries, with the lowest in Iran at 16.2% vs. 93% in Saudi Arabia. According to national experts, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman appear to maintain the most supportive environments for women entrepreneurship.
Anishkaa Ghani (UAE)
Seeing an opportunity to bring the Public Relations services typically used by government agencies and multinationals to SMEs, Anishkaa Ghani founded Yardstick Marketing in 2012. The Dubai-based firm has provided its integrated marketing solutions to over 2500 local and global clients, across all sectors. Anishkass has praised the robust environment the UAE government has created to nurture entrepreneurs in the country.
Nardane Kuşçu (Turkey)
With the goal of creating a modern educational facility that promotes organic agriculture, Nardane Kuşçu opened Narköy in 2007. Both a farm and a hotel, the nature-drenched locale offers individual visitors and corporate firms a wide range of workshops and activities ranging from bread making to mindfulness. Nardane established Narköy with the belief that the best way to make more sustainable agriculture is to teach future generations about the link between biodiversity and resilient food systems. Her retreat is considered one of Turkey’s leading Agrotourism destinations.
Business activity in Canada and the United States is the focus of Gem’s report for this region. Both countries and their women business owners have benefited from post-pandemic economic rebounds, with GDP growth of 4% in Canada and 5.5% in the United States since 2020.
The rate of women’s early-stage entrepreneurial activity was similar in Canada and the United States in 2021, at 15.8% and 15.2%, respectively, well above the global average. However, in this category, women were less active than men in both countries. And only one in 10 women in the United States and Canada reported entrepreneurial intentions in 2021, placing them below the global average.
In the United States, Women account for over 40% of entrepreneurs offering innovative products to local, national and international markets. Moreover, early-stage women owners are 84% more likely than men to adopt new technologies in the United States. Women entrepreneurs in Canada account for 25% of activity in the Information & Communication Technology, and Manufacturing & Transport sectors.
Over half of women in both countries reported having the skills to start a business, lower than the perception of their male peers. Women in the United States were also less active as investors than women in Canada, but both groups lag behind men in this region. Women in Canada and the United States wrestle with similar concerns regarding equal access to finance, favourable regulations for women entrepreneurs, and adequate family support services.
Sheneya Wilson (USA)
When her accounting and financial services business grew quicker than expected, Sheneya Wilson put her PhD in Accounting and Information Systems on hold to focus on the firm she founded in 2017, Fola Financial LLC. Sheneya has been a contributing tax expert in The New York Times, and Forbes, and currently serves on Business Insider’s Tax Review Board. Dedicated to empowering others through the use of financial education, Sheneya has also developed a Tax Essentials Learning Program (T.E.L.P).
Cassandra Nordell (Canada)
Drawing on her extensive home design experience, Cassandra Nordell co-founded William Standen Co. in 2010, a first-of-its-kind eco-friendly custom cabinet provider. The company has grown to become an industry leader in green designs and renovations for homes, making the list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies in 2016, and winning several National Kitchen+Bath Association awards. Cassandra has also been featured as one of Canada’s Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs by CanadianSME Small Business Magazine.
Pandemic Impact on Women’s Entrepreneurial Activity
The 2021/22 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report data suggests women are more likely to be working in the types of industries that the lockdowns and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would affect. Typically, women are also more likely to own smaller-sized businesses that are more vulnerable to wide-ranging shifts in market interruptions. Given this context, it may not be surprising that the global pandemic impacted women’s business activity at a higher rate than men’s.
However, women showed only a slightly lower entrepreneurial intention rate decrease across all surveyed countries than men. Women in lower-income countries experienced a greater decline in entrepreneurial intentions, however, women in upper–middle–income countries showed an increase. Business startup rates also rose slightly for women across all countries on average. But activity rates of Established Business Ownership dropped across all national income levels for both women and men, with women in upper–middle–income countries experiencing the most significant decline at 43% from 2019 to 2021.
Globally, nearly half of women early-stage entrepreneurs felt the pandemic created new business opportunities, nearly at parity with their male peers. Similarly, one-quarter of women and men early-stage entrepreneurs reported the pandemic motivated the adoption of new digital technologies, and over 50% indicated that they expected to use more digital technologies in the next six months. However, among established business owners, women are 65% more likely than men to report plans to use more digital tools in the near future.
Room for Optimism
GEM’s 2021/22 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report offers encouraging findings about the progress women have made globally as business owners and promoters of innovation in the marketplace.
However, national experts agree that the enabling environment for women entrepreneurs remains very low in most countries — highlighting the work that still needs to be done. Until the playing field of opportunities and resources levels for all genders, the true potential of women’s entrepreneurship can’t be fully experienced.
But policymakers the world over appear to be chipping away at the cultural beliefs and structural inequalities that perpetuate the gender gaps that exist for entrepreneurs. Despite the challenges that remain, it appears that most nations have gleaned the connection between setting women entrepreneurs up for success and a vibrant global business community.