Press Release: More Than 250M Women Worldwide Are Entrepreneurs, According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report from Babson College and Smith College

Monday, November 25, 2019

Approximately 252 million women around the world are entrepreneurs and another 153 million women are operating established businesses, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2018/2019 Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship, released today by Babson College and Smith College and sponsored by the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation.  This 2018/2019 report provides analysis from 59 economies, aggregating data from two GEM data collection cycles, 10 economies reporting in 2017 and 49 reporting in 2018.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) was initiated in 1999 as a joint venture of Babson College and the London Business School.

“This report considers women’s entrepreneurship within the context of entrepreneurship ecosystems. The concept of entrepreneurial ecosystems has achieved importance especially with regard to policy, regional clusters, innovation systems, context and institutional frameworks that promote and support entrepreneurship,” says Babson College’s Amanda Elam, Diana International Research Institute Fellow, Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College.

“Overall, this report demonstrates the value women entrepreneurs bring to societies worldwide and suggests areas for improvement in ecosystems that better encourage and support women entrepreneurs,” said Candida G. BrushBabson College Vice Provost of Global Entrepreneurial Leadership.

“The findings of this report provide a foundation for guiding future research, policy decision-making, and design of initiatives and programs to enhance growth and development of women’s entrepreneurship within context,” said Monica Dean, Director, Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at Smith College.

The report has three main recommendations. We should:

  • Address stereotypes of who are entrepreneurs and what is entrepreneurship.
  • Change the dialogue about entrepreneurship to match the reality reflected in the data.
  • Learn from each other about the best ways to build successful businesses and a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Entrepreneurship Activity

Total Entrepreneurial Activity

  • Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) represents the percentage of the adult working-age population (18-64) who are either nascent or new entrepreneurs. Globally, the TEA rate for women is 10.2%, approximately three-quarters of that seen for men. Low-income countries showed the highest rates of women’s TEA at 15.1%. Low-income countries report the smallest TEA gender gap, where women’s TEA is over 80% of that of men. Women’s TEA rate drops to 8.1% for high-income countries with a corresponding TEA gender gap slightly more than two-thirds that of men.
  • The highest rates of TEA for women are found in sub-Saharan Africa (21.8%) and Latin American (17.3%). The lowest rates are found in Europe (6%) and MENA regions (9%).[1]
  • Nine countries where women report entrepreneurial behaviors at levels equal to (parity) or greater than those of men are AngolaEcuadorIndonesiaKazakhstanMadagascarPanamaQatarThailand and Vietnam – representing all three levels of national income.

Entrepreneurial Intentions

  • The global average for women’s intentions to start a business within the next three years is 17.6%, only about four points less than for men. The highest rates of women’s entrepreneurial intentions are found among low-income countries (37.8%), followed by middle-income (21.3%) and high-income countries (12.6%).
  • The gender gap for entrepreneurial intentions is closest to parity in low-income countries at 86% women to men ratio, increasingly substantial for middle-income and high-income countries with a gap of 26%.

Established Business Ownership

  • Progress was noted in terms of women’s ownership of established businesses. GEM defines such businesses as those in operation for more than 42 months. Globally, 6.2% of women entrepreneurs own established businesses, about two-thirds the rate of men.
  • The highest rates are seen in sub-Saharan Africa (11.3%) and Asia (9.1%) with the lowest rates of established business ownership reported in MENA (4.5%), Europe (5.3%), North America (5.7%) and Latin America (6.5%).

Business Discontinuance

  • The average global rate for business discontinuance is about 10% lower for women (2.9%) than for men (3.2%).
  • The causes of business discontinuance are attributed to a set of reasons including lack of profit, lack of finance, other job/business opportunity, retirement, sale or acquisition, personal/family reasons, government tax/regulations, and so on.
  • Less than half of women’s business closure reasons are directly attributed to financial reasons (45.8%), including 29.6% reporting closure due to lack of profit and 16.2% citing lack of financing.

Entrepreneur Characteristics

TEA by Age

  • As in past years, the highest participation rates in entrepreneurship among women are in the 25-34 and 35-44 year-old age groups, with gender parity among 18-24 year-olds in Asia and greater than parity for women aged 25-34 in sub-Saharan Africa.

TEA by Education

  • Globally, TEA rates increase with level of education for both men and women, while the gender gap tends to increase.  Notably, graduate education leads to lower TEA rates for women compared to men, except in sub-Saharan Africa.

Entrepreneurs’ Perceptions

  • Among women entrepreneurs, 63% perceive opportunities, a figure which is near parity (within five points) with that for men in all regions except Europe.
  • Gender gap in perceptions of startup skills is about 6% with 79.5% of women perceiving they have skills to start a business compared to 84.2% of men. EuropeNorth America and sub-Saharan Africa show parity.
  • 67.9% of women, versus 72.3% of men, indicate they are undeterred by fear of failure. Europe is at parity, but the largest gap is in the middle-income countries (9%).

Impact and Performance of Women Entrepreneurs

Solo Entrepreneurship

  • Among women, 36.4% work as solo entrepreneurs, operating on their own without co-founders or employees, compared to 26.9% of men.
  • A gender gap for these activities exists across all regions. Brazil has highest percentage of women solo entrepreneurs – 83%. Colombia reports lowest percentage – 2.3%.

Current Employees

  • 2.5% of women entrepreneurs and 5% of men entrepreneurs have more than 20 employees.

Growth Expectations

  • Overall, less than 30% of all entrepreneurs expect to add more than six employees in the next five years, but there is a substantial gender gap in that 18.7% of women entrepreneurs expect high growth compared to 29% of men entrepreneurs.


  • Innovation rates tend to increase with economic development for both men and women entrepreneurs, from about 20% in low- and lower-middle-income countries to 30% in high-income countries.
  • Men more often reported than women that their businesses are innovative by about 30% across countries. Women were more likely than men in 24 countries to describe businesses as innovative.


  • The global rate of internationalization is close to parity for women and men entrepreneurs, 26.1% compared to 28.2%.
  • Women in high-income countries were the most likely to report a high percentage of international sales (14.3%), while those in middle-income (11.8%) and low-income countries (8.2%) were less likely to report a high percentage of international sales.


  • Globally, 53.4% of women’s TEA is in wholesale/retail trade compared to 43.5% of men’s activity. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to be present in government/health/education and social services. Largest gender gaps are in agriculture, mining and information and communications technology (ICT) where men entrepreneurs are more than twice as likely as women to operate. 16 countries report no women in ICT.
  • High-income countries have the lowest women’s TEA in wholesale/retail trade by nearly 20%; and women entrepreneurs operate in financial, professional and consumer services at twice the rate of women at other national income levels.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Influences

Expecting Good Opportunities

  • Globally, opportunity perceptions by women (42.1%) and men (47.3%) represent a 10% gender gap, a 2% improvement from the last report.[2]

Having the Skills to Start a Business

  • Women report having lower confidence levels in their capabilities to start a business than men, and there is no region where women rank higher than men. The gender gap has narrowed since the last report by 2% with five countries moving to near parity. 43.4% of women and 55.6% of men report they believe they have capabilities to start a business.

Undeterred by Fear of Failure

  • Overall, men were about 10% more likely to be undeterred by fear of failure than women; and across all regions, men have a more positive response than women.
  • Women in sub-Saharan Africa were the least deterred by fear of failure (66.5%). There were 10 countries where 65% or more reported no fear of failure.

Personally Knows an Entrepreneur

  • Globally, approximately 33% of women report knowing an entrepreneur compared to 42.2% of men, representing a global gender gap of about 17%.

Ease of Starting a Business

  • Globally, women (39.1%) and men (42.5%) are almost equally as likely to believe in the ease of starting a business.

Starting a New Business is a Good Career Idea

  • Women and men are equally positive that entrepreneurship is a good career – with rates of about 62%. Gender parity was strikingly consistent across regions and income levels.
  • For women, perceptions of new business as a good career were highest in low-income countries (70.6%), and lowest in high-income countries (58.8%).

Owning a Business is a High-Status Job

  • Entrepreneurship is viewed equally by about two-thirds of women and men worldwide as a high-status job. Gender parity in this perception was found in 15 countries and was consistent across regions and national income levels.

Media is Favorable to New Businesses

  • Women and men were equally likely to view media coverage as favorable (approximately 60% globally), and all regions showed gender parity.

Entrepreneurial Investors

Entrepreneurial Investment Rates

  • Globally, 3.4% of women compared to 5.4% of men provide funding for entrepreneurial startups. There is no region where the percentage of women investors exceeds that of men. Europe region reflects the overall lowest percentage of women investors at 2.6%.

Investor Relation to Entrepreneur

  • Women (64.2%) are much more likely to invest in a family member than men (51.9%), and this holds across all regions. The range of support varies from a high of 100% in Madagascar to a low of 25% in France. Women in North America are least likely to support family members with investment at almost 50%, compared to women in sub-Saharan Africa at 70%.
  • Women are less likely to support work colleagues with investment compared to men. In 14 countries no women invest in work colleagues.
  • Women are also less likely than men to invest in friends and neighbors in all regions except North America where women were 10% more likely to invest in friends and neighbors compared to men. There are seven countries where women invested in friends and neighbors at a greater rate than men, with the highest rates noted in the IndiaTaiwan and the United States at about 40% or more.
  • Globally, women are less likely to invest in strangers with a good business idea than are men (7.5% and 9%, respectively).


This latest special report on women and entrepreneurship suggests that significant work remains to be done to encourage and support of women entrepreneurs and their ability to build economic security for themselves, their families, their communities, and their countries. Three main recommendations are offered.

  1. Address stereotypes of who are entrepreneurs and what is entrepreneurship. From an economic development perspective, expanding societal views to a more inclusive vision of entrepreneurship is a critical action that can be supported by all ecosystem participants. The GEM Global Report for this year focused on the theme of entrepreneurship of all kinds which embraces women entrepreneurs. This inclusive approach is more beneficial and far-reaching than a continued emphasis on past models.
  2. Change the dialogue about entrepreneurship to match the reality reflected in the data. It is a long-standing pattern within entrepreneurial ecosystems to focus on the access to capital, and this is indeed a critical need for business owners. However, capital may also be a symptom rather than the root illness. This report shows that when looking at global data, only 16.2% of women (15.4% of men) attributed the closure of their business to lack of access to capital. Other reasons for discontinuance were related to selling the business or retiring. This finding suggests a need for more training on how to capture value when exiting a business.
  3. Learn from each other about the best ways to build successful businesses and a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. The comparisons between women and men provided in this study are not meant to provide the “men’s numbers” as targets, objectives or goals, rather they are simply descriptive measures. From an economic development perspective, the actual objective is to learn from the data, quantitative and qualitative, to guide the development of an ecosystem that works well for all informed by social, cultural, political and economic contexts while informing what may need to be addressed in those contextual dimensions as well.

Overall, this report demonstrates the value women entrepreneurs bring to societies worldwide and suggests areas for improvement in conditions that encourage and support their aspirations.


Photo courtesy of David Weekly.

Source: Press Release (link opens in a new window)