Financial Alliance for Women Summit: Session on Building Female-Friendly Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

On 18 June 2019 I participated in the “Session on Building Female-Friendly Entrepreneurial Ecosystems” at the 2019 Financial Alliance for Women Summit in Paris, France. Moderated by Paul Jenkins, Senior Partner, Head of Digital for McKinsey in Western Europe. Panelists: Ulrike Decoene, Chief Communications Officer, AXA; Laila Page, Chief of Staff, Commercial and Private Banking, NatWest/RBS.

Key highlights from my intervention:

  • In 2015, women were half as likely as men in the EU to be self-employed (9.9% vs. 17.8%).
  • The gender gap in entrepreneurial activities has changed very little in most countries since 2012.
  • Self-employed women earned two-thirds the income of self-employed men. In US the earnings gender gap in self-employment is 58%
  • Male entrepreneurs in OECD are more than twice as likely as women to have employees.
  • Recent estimates suggest that if the entrepreneurship gender gap were eliminated, global GDP could rise by as much as 2%, or USD 1.5 trillion.
  • Gender stereotypes see entrepreneurship as “masculine”, associated with male characteristics like courage, ambition & risk. OECD ABC of Gender Equality found that girls in same-sex schools took more risks in schoolwork.
  • Women lack confidence: only one-third of women indicate that they have sufficient skills to start a business, compared to half of men.
  • Stereotypes affect  sector choice & earnings (health + beauty vs. construction + transport).
  • Gender gaps in STEM also relevant: In OECD countries fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are girls.
  • To increase share of women entrepreneurs, role-modeling & mentorship is key.
  • Ireland’s Going for Growth provides peer-to-peer mentoring for business development. Participants hired an additional 146 employees.
  • Other examples of mentorship are France’s Plan Entreprenariat des femmes, Germany’s FRAUEN Unternehmen or regional initiatives like Canada’s Alberta Grow to Greatness Excelerator Program.
  • Canada’s Business Women in Intl. Trade (BWIT) helps women-led business access international markets through business-to-business meetings and matchmaking opportunities.
  • Government programmes help access finance.
  • In developing & emerging countries, government programmes in Morocco, India and Malaysia help with credit guarantees covering 70-80% of loan.
  • Some countries offer women-specific measures in procurement markets, e.g. US and Korea, but also South Africa & Indonesia started set-asides.
  • Some venture capital Funds are also investing in women-led companies. The BDC Capital Women in Technology Fund (Canada) has committed to investing $200 million over the next five years.
  • OECD is leading the way with better data and analysis: we have 2013 Recommendation on Gender Equality in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship & The Missing Entrepreneurs.
  • We recently launched Women’s Entrepreneurship (WE) Initiative to strengthen evidence by collecting gender-disaggregated internationally comparable data on SME access to finance.
  • WE Initiative is also looking at specific issues (data and analysis) of women tech entrepreneurs.
  • OECD work (like PISA, early childhood, and work on masculinities) is tackling stereotypes around entrepreneurship & risk-taking.
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