Women in Charge: Mastercard Index reveals how countries are progressing to empower women entrepreneurs

Singapore – – Women entrepreneurs appear to thrive better in more developed economies, findings from the second edition of the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) revealed. Compared to their peers in emerging markets, women business owners in developed ones are able to draw from a greater pool of enabling resources and opportunities, including access to capital, financial services and academic programs.

Overall, the Index indicates that budding and established women entrepreneurs around the world continue to progress despite gender-related cultural biases that can create significant roadblocks hindering them from advancing their businesses.

The Index tracks the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs and business owners across 57 markets spanning five geographic regions – Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and North America.

“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,” said Martina Hund-Mejean, Chief Financial Officer, Mastercard.

Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs – Top 10 markets with the strongest supporting conditions and opportunities for women to thrive as entrepreneurs

    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

The Index indicates developed markets with strong enabling conditions are not immune to cultural bias against female entrepreneurship. In New Zealand, results revealed that the society is less receptive towards female entrepreneurs. Despite these circumstances, women business owners in New Zealand have risen above the challenge, pulling their market to the top – and for the second year running.

The Index also suggests that the opportunity for entrepreneurship is not necessarily aligned to the pace of a market’s economic development. Emerging economies such as Ghana (46.4 percent) – one of the Index’s three newly added markets along with Malawi and Nigeria – Uganda (33.8 percent) and Vietnam (31.3 percent) were found to have higher women business ownership rates, compared to more developed ones. Women in these markets are deemed as necessity-driven entrepreneurs, spurred by a need for survival despite their lack of financial capital and access to enabling services.

Women business owners as a percentage of all business owners – Top 10 markets

    Ghana – 46.4%

    Russia – 34.6%

    Uganda – 33.8%

    New Zealand – 33.0%

    Australia – 32.1%

    Vietnam – 31.3%

    Poland – 30.3%

    Spain – 29.4%

    Romania -28.9%

    Portugal – 28.7%

“Ahead of International Women’s Day, we hope the study’s findings can serve as a timely reminder for governments and organizations to bolster support provided to budding and working women business owners across all areas, from greater financial inclusion and wider access to education,” said Ann Cairns, President, International Markets, Mastercard.

 Key insights:

What do successful businesses survive on? A powerful combination of access to financial services and products; ease of doing business; strong support for SMEs and quality governance, as seen in New Zealand (74.2 points, 1st), Sweden (71.3, 2nd), Canada (70.9, 3rd), the United States (70.8, 4th) and Singapore (69.2, 5th), which took the top five spots on the Index.

Entrepreneurship is seen as a ticket to opportunity for women, as shown in markets like Philippines (68.0, 9th), Botswana (66.5, 14th), Thailand (65.8, 15th), Poland (65.4, 19th) and Costa Rica (65.0, 20th). Although supporting conditions for entrepreneurs in these markets are not as conducive, they have a strong representation of female business leaders, professionals and technical workers, a vibrant local entrepreneurship landscape, and high regard for the status of successful entrepreneurs.

Korea (53.2 to 57.2, 44th) tracked the biggest improvement in Index score, driven by a surge in entrepreneurial activities. The growth of the Korean female business landscape may have been fueled by positive perceptions of successful women executives and the set-up of a task force for gender parity.

The progress of women entrepreneurs was held back by one or more obstacles in nearly all of the 57 economies covered. These obstacles are largely caused by perceptions of gender bias, which contribute to poor social and cultural acceptance, lack of self-belief and access to financial funding or venture capital.

In fact, a lack of self-belief can be especially potent in deterring women from starting their own businesses. In markets like Belgium (25.5%, 22nd), Germany (25.3, 24th), and the United Kingdom (25.0, 27th) the percentage of female business ownership in the market is lower than expected, despite having efficient regulatory systems and high access to resources.

However, a will always forges a way. In necessity-driven markets such as Indonesia (62.4, 30th), Ghana (61.5, 33rd), Brazil (61.1, 35th), Mexico (60.2, 38th), Uganda (57.6, 43rd) and Nigeria (56.4, 45th), women are as likely as men to engage in entrepreneurship. Such enterprises are likely to be in the informal sector, are less-technologically intensive, small in scale and assume the form of self-employment.

Although markets in the Middle East and Africa region such as United Arab Emirates (49.5, 49th), Tunisia (45.2, 51st) and Saudi Arabia (39.3, 54th) may have tracked the some of the lowest scores in the Index, they also report the highest average growth expectations among women at 37%. Over half of women entrepreneurs in the UAE and Tunisia expect to hire 6 or more employees in the next 5 years. Women in Saudi Arabia are more likely than men to have these ambitions to grow their businesses.