Can role models encourage woman to step off the beaten path and become entrepreneurs?


March 2019 - In virtually all countries around the world, there exists a gender gap in self-employment rates. In the OECD area, only one in ten employed women is self-employed, compared to one in five men. These gender differences raise the question of what factors in people’s lives might encourage them to become entrepreneurs. Could role models have an influence? Recent findings from the Facebook-OECD-World Bank Future of Business Survey (December 2018, covering 95 countries) reveal that, on average, close to half of all surveyed entrepreneurs had a role model when growing up. While there is little difference between genders when looking at the big picture - 43% of men and 41% of women reported having role models - in all countries these role models tend to be of the same gender, with women more often having female role models while men more frequently looking to men for guidance. Social and cultural norms in different regions of the world seem to affect the importance attached to role models: over 50% of both male and female entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin American and Caribbean countries stated they had role models, while this was much less common in Eastern Europe (35% for men and 30% for women). Also, female entrepreneurs who operate in male-dominated sectors are more likely to have had male role models when growing up. Championing successful women could encourage girls to envisage their working life differently, choosing entrepreneurship as a career, and moving away from common stereotypes on women’s professions.

Figure 1: Role models tend to be within the same gender
Percentage of entrepreneurs who had a role model when growing up, by region, December 2018

Note: The male (female) role model breakdown was established based on the following survey question: "A role model is a person who serves as an example. Did you have a key role model growing up?", where possible answers include "Yes, a man", "Yes, a woman" or "No".


Figure 2: Gender of role models and entrepreneurs' choice of activity sector
Percentage of women entrepreneurs who had a role model while growing up, by characteristics of activity sector, December 2018

Note: Male (female) dominated sectors are defined according to the replies provided to the following survey question "In your main business's industry and sector, do you think more businesses are owned by men or by women?, where possible answers include "Men" or "Women".



More data on the OECD Gender Data Portal


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