How can more women have the right skills to successfully start a business?


March 2020 - Women in OECD countries are about 50% less likely than men to be involved in launching or running a new business. Women-operated businesses are also less likely to create jobs for others. Moreover, women, on average, tend to operate different types of businesses than men. While women start firms in all sectors, including technology-intensive sectors, 13.3% of self-employed women in 2018 were operating in health and social work sectors and 11.5% in service sectors such as cleaning of textile products and physical well-being activities. However, only 3.3% and 2.5% of self-employed men were operating in these sectors. Men on the other hand were much more likely to operate in construction (18.7% vs 1.6%), transportation and storage (5.2% vs. 1.1%), information and communication (4.3% vs. 1.9%) and manufacturing (7.8% vs. 4.4%).

These gender gaps in the quantity and quality of entrepreneurship activities can be explained by many factors, including a need for more entrepreneurship skills. Between 2014 and 2018, women in OECD countries were 35% less likely than men to report having the skills and knowledge to be able to successfully start a business (Figure 1). This highlights skills gaps in areas such as business management, opportunity recognition and risk management. The lower figure could also be partly explained by gender differences in self-perception and self-confidence that could contribute to an under-reporting of women’s true skills.

Public policy can help more women overcome skills barriers to successfully start viable businesses. Traditional approaches to building entrepreneurship skills among women include dedicated entrepreneurship training as well as coaching and mentoring programmes. Tailored approaches are usually better-equipped to respond to the needs of women-operated businesses, and use delivery methods that are more effective for women entrepreneurs such as the use of female coaches and mentors.

In recent years, many OECD governments have been going further by increasing dedicated support for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs who will generate more jobs in the economy. Examples of new initiatives include Starting Strong in Ireland and the Fierce Founders Bootcamp at the Communitech Incubator in Ontario, Canada. Starting Strong leverages peer-learning to help participants learn and build networks with similarly ambitious women entrepreneurs, while Fierce Founders offers digital women entrepreneurs a short bootcamp programme covering customer validation and business fundamentals, as well as networking opportunities. 

Note: OECD average is a weighted average of all OECD countries. For other methodology notes, please see Figure 2.11 in OECD/EU (2019), The Missing Entrepreneurs 2019.

Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2019), Special tabulations of the GEM survey 2014-18.


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