Relevance of gender in the policy area
Entrepreneurship plays an important role in creating jobs, innovation and growth. Fostering entrepreneurship is a key policy goal for governments who expect that high rates of entrepreneurial activity will create sustainable jobs. Self-employment, also contributes to job creation in Europe, as 30% of the self-employed have employees of their own. European-level data indicate that the self-employment sector has shown a degree of resilience during the recent economic crisis, as the relative decline in self-employment has been more moderate in comparison with salaried employment.
Against this backdrop, interest in women’s entrepreneurship has grown among scholars and policymakers. While the rationale for women’s entrepreneurship has traditionally focused on enhancing women’s equality, empowerment and social inclusion, its development is now seen to make good economic sense. Only in recent years has it become clear that women entrepreneurs can be a powerful economic resource. World Bank studies show that women entrepreneurs make significant contributions to economic growth and poverty reduction, not only in developing countries but also in high-income countries. Women entrepreneurs create new jobs for themselves and others. Besides boosting employment, women’s entrepreneurship also supports the diversification of business, stimulating innovation and diversification in management, in production and marketing practices as well as in products and services. Women provide different solutions to management, organisational and business problems.
The number of woman entrepreneurs has changed little in OECD countries. The proportion of women-owned businesses currently lies at around 30% of the total number of businesses in OECD countries. When women do start businesses, they do it on a smaller scale than men and in a limited range of sectors. In addition, self-employed women experience severe gender gaps and may earn 30% to 40% less than their male counterparts.The gender pay gap for self‑employment stands at 45% at EU level, which vividly illustrates the extent of the disparities between women and men in this type of employment.
Despite a major difficulty in examining and measuring entrepreneurship due to the blurred boundaries separating it from self-employment, the literature shows that women still face a great number of difficulties and obstacles in establishing and running businesses. These include:
- access to finance
- unfavourable business regulations
- cultural barriers
- choice of business types and sectors
- information and training gaps
- lack of contacts and access to social support and networking
- education and occupational segregation
- competing demands on time (double burden of home and work responsibilities).
Gender inequalities in entrepreneurship include the following:
- access to credit, finance and capital
- networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs
- horizontal gender segregation
- reconciling work and family life
- prejudices and stereotypes about women in business.
Gender inequalities in the policy area - Main issues
Gender and access to credit, finance and capital
Access to credit and finance is a common barrier to women starting and growing a business. There are considerable differences between women and men entrepreneurs in terms of their financial arrangements and the sectors they operate in. Bank loans are traditionally the route to finance for many businesses but during the realignment of the banking sector, this path has been and continues to be reduced, according to a survey by the European Central Bank. Although no breakdown by gender is included, and both women and men face similar reductions in loans, recent studies suggest that barriers in accessing credit and finance are higher for women. The reasons for this include lack of traditional collateral (such as land or property, which is often registered in men’s names), women’s lower income levels relative to men’s and financial institutions’ inability to (or lack of interest) to design appropriate products and outreach strategies for women.
A gateway to the use of financial services is the ownership of a bank account. The Global Findex, a comprehensive database measuring how people save, borrow and manage risk in 148 countries, reveals that women are less likely than men to have formal bank accounts. With regard to EU Member States specifically, studies carried out in France found that 10% of women entrepreneurs wish to receive support from banks, which is a third lower than their male counterparts. Similarly, a UK study found that women entrepreneurs are less amenable to institutional finance, such as overdrafts, bank loans and supplier credit. Even if they can gain access to a loan, women often lack access to other financial services such as savings, digital payment methods and insurance. Lack of financial education can also limit women from gaining access to and benefiting from financial services.
Equal access to capital is not yet a reality. In 2008, only 20.3% of EU businesses started with venture capital were run by women. Three factors may explain these differences:
- women own fewer financial assets and have shorter credit histories (given their lack of entrepreneurial experience), both of which are valued by credit providers.
- given the sectors women are active in and the size of their companies, their projects are generally less capital intensive.
- there might also be some bias reflecting a lack of confidence in women entrepreneurs, an idea reinforced by the fact that women are less represented in financing activities and networks.
Also because of the unequal access to capital, when they become self‑employed, women then tend to operate smaller businesses in sectors that are different from that of men and largely mirror segregation patterns in the labour market. These factors can then translate into lower levels of labour productivity and earnings and a greater risk of poverty for women who are self‑employed compared with women employees.
Networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs
Having access to a strong network of business partners can be a highly important factor in achieving entrepreneurial success. The tendency to network does not appear to differ significantly between women and men entrepreneurs and the size of the networks to which they both have access to is similar. Women entrepreneurs increasingly recognise the commercial importance of professional networking – both among women only and among women and men – and are organising themselves into associations and organisations. However, women generally have less access to ‘important’ networks and usually engage in smaller networks primarily made up of women, while men spend more time developing and maintaining networks. This is partly due to women being less present in the most innovative industries, having less relevant previous experience, and possibly to the lower visibility of successful businesswomen.
Some studies also point out that women’s ‘double burden’ (work and family obligations) and other social obligations may lead them to experience more isolation than men entrepreneurs (), due to less available time for networking.
Women entrepreneurs organising themselves into business networks may play an important role in creating cultural figures and role models. Women entrepreneurs can thus transfer knowledge and information about the ways in which problems have been solved and how to deal with certain circumstances. The circulation of information and knowledge and greater familiarity with the field may also reduce the perception of risk associated with entrepreneurship ().
In order to boost access to business networks, the European Commission supports several networks helping women become entrepreneurs and run successful businesses:
- the European Network to Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship (WES)
- the European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors
- the European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs
Horizontal gender segregation
Throughout the EU, women entrepreneurs are mostly found in sectors where entrepreneurship is less present, such as the social and education sectors. The more innovative, fast-growing sectors with more self-employment (and hence more entrepreneurial potential), such as the retail, science, technology and engineering sectors, are mostly dominated by men. The number of women who actually own businesses in science or technology in the EU is estimated to lie between 5% and 15% of the total number of business owners in these fields.
Recent figures from 2014 show that women represent 31.8% of total self-employed people in the EU-28. The economic sectors in which self-employed women are in the majority are related to the employment of domestic personnel (80%), other services (69%), human health and social work activities (64%), and education (55%). In public administration, women represent 40% of self-employed people (but data also include defence, which is a male-dominated sector). In contrast, women represent one fifth or less of self-employed people working in industry (20%) and the information and communication sector (18.7%). Furthermore, women account for less than 4% of self-employment in construction. Significantly, self-employed women without employees – known as own-account workers – are proportionally higher (34%) than women with employees (employers) (26%). The proportion of self-employed women working on their own account is even higher in the sectors with high presence of women with respect to total self-employment and self-employment with employees. These figures feed in to the analysis of the so-called ‘dependent’ or ‘bogus’ self-employed, e.g. workers who are formally self-employed, but are treated as employees in terms of tasks, working time and other working conditions.
This form of ‘bogus’ self-employment is generally characterised by dependency on only one client, the presence of regular payments and the lack of capacity to freely hire new workers and/or make important decisions related to the business. This arrangement tends to benefit companies but not workers, who have less employment protection and social security provisions. It is more widespread among workers with less bargaining power and the most vulnerable in society. From this perspective, bogus self-employment may be a concern for women, since between 2008 and 2012 they accounted for the majority of the increase in self-employment without employees.
Reconciling work and family life
Caring responsibilities for children and elderly relatives and the costs of formal care are important factors in decisions on whether to participate in the labour market, to what extent, and which career profile to pursue.
The 2010 Global entrepreneurship monitor found that in all 59 countries examined, men entrepreneurs cite ‘pull factors’ more often than women, who put forward ‘push factors’ as their main motivations in starting a business. For more women than men, the decision to be self-employed is motivated by the search for a good balance between work and family life and by financial needs, while men tend to make employment choices based on earning potential. Empirical research and surveys confirm that the reasons women enter self-employment may differ from those of their male counterparts. Indeed, women are driven more than men by the need to obtain an appropriate work–family balance, with women using self-employment as an opportunity to fulfil family obligations and start small businesses to (re)integrate into the labour market. Self-employment can thus be considered a more viable option than salaried employment for women with children, as it can reduce the cost of childcare by providing increased flexibility and opportunities to work from home. However, in OECD countries, 22% of women entrepreneurs work fewer than 40 hours a week, compared with only 10% of men.
Compared to men, women may view self-employment as a better alternative to part-time employment or to being out of the labour force. Women are most likely to enter self-employment from part-time work or non-participation in the labour market, rather than from full-time work. Indeed, women seem more likely to resort to self‑employment as an alternative to part‑time employment, in order to balance work and life: not because of shorter working hours, but because of the greater autonomy and flexibility in choosing the allocation of working time. Work‑life balance is a particularly pertinent aspect of quality of work in the context of self‑employment, since it is often cited as an important motivational factor.
Prejudices and stereotypes about women in business
Prevailing entrepreneurial role models reflect a masculine bias and this is reinforced in popular media, education and government policy. Studies indicate that one effect of this ‘masculine’ entrepreneurial discourse is that women can feel out of place in this domain. This bias affects women’s perceptions about their entrepreneurial ability and those of other relevant stakeholders supporting business creation and growth (including the banking and venture capital system, other entrepreneurs and their networks, potential customers, etc.). Stereotypes and the lower exposure of women to other women role models might explain why they report less interest in entrepreneurial careers and feel less able to become successful entrepreneurs.
Generally speaking, the concept of entrepreneurship carries more positive connotations than self-employment and refers to a higher quality form of participation in the labour market, one characterised by deliberate choice and the pursuit of self-realisation. By contrast, self-employment is often seen as a path that individuals, especially women, choose out of necessity. These assumptions may reflect stereotypical gendered expectations surrounding entrepreneurship and self-employment, which, in turn, reproduce masculine norms of entrepreneurial behaviour.
Entrepreneurship has traditionally been constructed as a masculine field: men own a larger share of businesses and they overwhelmingly outnumber women in industries such as technology, which receive the most attention from the media, the general public and policymakers. Women entrepreneurs are concentrated in low-growth and low-skilled business sectors such as retailing and services, which are dismissively labelled as ‘mice’, ‘failure’ and ‘plodder’, compared with high-growth ‘gazelle’ businesses that are commonly associated with men. Furthermore, entrepreneurship case studies are mostly about men (e.g. Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Sam Walton) and most role models in entrepreneurship tend to be men.
Existing gender equality policy objectives at EU and international level
In the past few decades, the role and contribution of women’s entrepreneurship to economic empowerment, economic growth and society and sustainable development at large has been recognised on the part of national and international institutions.
Women’s entrepreneurship is a key issue for the European institutions. Since 2005, to ensure that SMEs would benefit from the measures identified in the Lisbon Strategy, the European Commission undertook to work with national authorities to address those areas, such as access to credit and entrepreneurial networks, where the needs of women entrepreneurs were not sufficiently met.
The European policies for women entrepreneurs have therefore pursued first of all the main objective of spreading entrepreneurial mindsets among women, encouraging and financially supporting the start-up of business activity by women.
In 2008, three lines of action were developed at EU level in relation to female entrepreneurship: better access to finance for women, development of entrepreneurial networks for women and targeted support measures envisaged in the Small Business Act. The Commission adopted a regulation that extends the granting of state aid to new enterprises created by women and has supported the creation of networks of women entrepreneurs.
The EU Strategy for equality between women and men 2010 – 2015 adopted in 2010 includes, under the priority of equal economic independence, references to women entrepreneurship.
In 2012, the European Commission drafted the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan in which it stresses that entrepreneurship makes economies more competitive and innovative and it is crucial in achieving the objectives of several European sectorial policies. Emphasis is also placed on social entrepreneurship whose potential is often underestimated, but that generates sustainable jobs and has demonstrated a stronger resilience to the crisis than the general economy.
On this basis, the plan is structured around three main action pillars:
entrepreneurial education and training to support growth and business creation
strengthening framework conditions for entrepreneurs by removing existing structural barriers and supporting them in crucial phases of the business lifecycle
dynamising the culture of entrepreneurship in Europe: nurturing the new generation of entrepreneurs.
While not specifically addressing women entrepreneurship, the plan invites Member States to:
design and implement national strategies for women’s entrepreneurship that aim at increasing the share of women-led companies
collect sex-disaggregated data and produce annual updates on the state of women entrepreneurs nationally
continue and expand the existing networks of female entrepreneurship ambassadors and mentors for women entrepreneurs
implement policies enabling women to achieve an adequate work–life balance, by establishing appropriate and affordable care for children and elderly dependents, notably by taking full advantage of support options under the EAFRD, ERDF and ESF.
In 2010 the European Parliament adopted a Directive amending the previous regulations to ensure greater protection to women who are self-employed. Through it, the principle of equal treatment between women and men has been extended to self-employment. This Directive considerably improves the protection of female self-employed workers and assisting spouses or life partners of self-employed workers, also in the case of maternity: they are granted a maternity allowance and a leave of at least 14 weeks. At the EU level, this is the first time a maternity allowance has been granted to self-employed workers. By improving the social protection available to women in the labour market, it is expected that it will increase the share of women becoming entrepreneurs, even though from the opposite viewpoint it may be seen as overregulation of micro-businesses.
In September 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on women entrepreneurship in small and medium-sized enterprises, where a female entrepreneur is defined as a ‘woman who has created a business in which she has a majority shareholding and who takes an active interest in the decision-making, risk-taking and day-to-day management’. The resolution also recognises that, even if ‘female entrepreneurship and female SMEs provide a key source for increasing the degree of female employment’ and ‘an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs resulting in a positive impact and an immediate contribution to the economy overall’, female entrepreneurs still face many barriers and obstacles (access to informational support, financial and technological tools, etc.) and the potential of female entrepreneurship is ‘far from being harnessed in the European Union’.
Therefore the resolution, acknowledging that ‘promoting women’s entrepreneurship is a long-term process that requires time to change structures and attitudes in society’, provides a series of recommendations to Commission, Member States and regional and local authorities in the areas of access to financial and educational support, to traditional business networking opportunities and to information and communication technologies.
Moreover, in 2011 the European Parliament adopted another resolution on women and business leadership with which it asks the European Commission to monitor in detail the phenomenon of women in management and business.
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union adopted in 2011, the European pact for gender equality for the period 2011 – 2020 in which gender equality is recognised as a fundamental value of the European Union as it stimulates economic growth, prosperity and competitiveness. Among the measures proposed to combat segregation in the labour market is also included the promotion of women entrepreneurship and the participation of women in political and economic life.
Area F (Women and the Economy) of the BPfA refers to women employment in all its forms (including self-employment and entrepreneurship) from the perspective of women’s economic independence.
Economic independence is a prerequisite for enabling both women and men to exercise control over their lives and to make genuine choices. Paragraph 26 of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) mentions a clear commitment to:
In its Recommendation of the Council on gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship, adopted by the Council at Ministerial Level on 29 May 2013, OECD recommends Member States:
How and when? Entrepreneurship and the integration of the gender dimension into the policy cycle
The gender dimension can be integrated in all phases of the policy cycle. For a detailed description of how gender can be mainstreamed in each phase of the policy cycle click here.
Below, you can find useful resources and practical examples for mainstreaming gender into entrepreneurship policies. They are organised according to the most relevant phase of the policy cycle they may serve.
In this phase, it’s recommended to gather information on the situation of women and men in a certain area. This means looking for sex-disaggregated data and gender statistics, as well as checking for the existence of studies, programme or project reports, and/or evaluations from previous periods.
Examples of gender and entrepreneurship statistics
At the EU level, relevant databases and indexes have been developed to address the dimension of gender and entrepreneurship. Don’t forget to check databases that may also exist at the level of the Member States.
Eurostat – the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS)
This provides the main aggregated statistics on labour market outcomes in the European Union. The EU-LFS is the main data source for employment and unemployment. Tables on population, employment, working hours, permanency of job, professional status etc. are included.
It provides disaggregated statistics by sex, age groups, economic activity, education attainment and field of education, type of employment (part-time, temporary work), self-employment, from which it is possible to measure the characteristics of labour force of women. In particular, data on self-employment with sex disaggregation are available.
EIGE – gender statistics
EIGE assists EU institutions and the Member States in the collection, analysis and dissemination of objective, reliable and comparable information and data on equality between women and men. The gender statistics database provides statistics on the indicators established and implemented for monitoring the BPfA critical areas of concern. Indicators related to entrepreneurship and self-employment are included in Area F – Women and the Economy.
OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The ongoing OECD’s gender initiative aims to strengthen gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship (the ‘three Es’). To reinforce the collection and monitoring of gender-specific indicators, the OECD updates its gender data portal on 8 March each year for International Women’s Day. The portal provides a rich set of actualised indicators on gender equality in the ‘three Es’ showing how far we are from achieving gender equality and where action is most needed. It also includes short highlights on some selected gender issues.
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a study of entrepreneurship providing information, reports and stories which enhance the understanding of the entrepreneurial phenomenon. The GEM provides entrepreneurship indicators and custom charts, graphs and maps and dataset.
UNSD, UN women project
Evidence and data for gender equality (EDGE) - This is a project that seeks to accelerate existing efforts to generate comparable gender indicators on health, education, employment, entrepreneurship and asset ownership. The activities of the project include the development of a platform for international data and metadata compilation covering basic health, education and employment indicators, the development of standards and guidelines for measuring assets and entrepreneurship indicators, and the pilot of data collection on assets and entrepreneurship in several countries.
Examples of studies, research and reports
Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI)
Female entrepreneurship index, 2015 report - In this study the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI), developed a women’s entrepreneurship index – the Gender GEDI – measuring the development of potential female entrepreneurship. Once a gender analysis has identified the opportunities and obstacles for female entrepreneurship, it is easier to plan improvement.
Panteia Research to Progress (2014)
Study on statistical data on women entrepreneurs in Europe. This study was carried out at the request of the European Commission DG Enterprise and Industry in order to gather available statistical data on women entrepreneurs in Europe. The study objective was to collect, analyse and systematically present the most recent data on women entrepreneurs in Europe-37 (which includes the 28 EU Member States, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway and Serbia).
The European Commission’s Directorate-General: Enterprise and Industry
Eurobarometer, entrepreneurship in the EU and beyond, 2012. This studies the development of entrepreneurship in EU Member States for over a decade. This series of surveys has also endeavoured to compare the state of affairs within the EU by comparing the EU data with data from a range of non-EU countries. In the edition of 2012 of the survey () there are several analysis from a gender perspective.
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)
2010 Report. In this report the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that women are driven more than men by the need to obtain an appropriate work–family balance, with women using the opportunity to fulfil family obligations and start small businesses to (re)integrate into the labour market. Moreover it found that given the possible existence of a so-called glass ceiling (obstacles to achieving managerial positions), women could move more often towards entrepreneurship out of frustration.
Example of gender analysis
One of the first steps to take when defining your policy/project/programme is to gather information and analyse the situation of women and men in the respective policy domain. The information and data you collected will allow an understanding of the reality and assist you in designing your policy, programme or project. Specific methods that can be used in this phase are gender analysis and gender impact assessment.
Tips for conducting a gender analysis at the activity or project level. The purpose of this document is to provide practical guidance for conducting gender analysis in project or activity design. A specific section is dedicated to a set of questions that should be posed in the context of designing an entrepreneurship programme.
Example of a gender impact assessment
Gender impact analysis of selected support measures for entrepreneurship in Serbia, 2012. This report assesses to what extent female entrepreneurs have had access to selected governmental support programmes for entrepreneurship in Serbia during 2009 and 2010. It has been commissioned by the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development (MoERD), with the support of UN Women, as part of their efforts in 2011 to assess the gender impact of selected government measures in support of entrepreneurship. It entails indications on the methodology used to assess gender impact.
Examples of stakeholders that can be consulted
Consider consulting stakeholders (e.g. gender experts, civil society organisations) on the topic at hand, to share and validate your findings and to improve your policy or programme proposal. This will enhance the learning process on the subject for all those involved and will improve the quality of the work done at the EU level. Stakeholders consultation process will start in this phase, but could also be considered as an important method to be applied along all the policy cycle’s phases.
European Network to Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship (WES)
This is a policy network with members from 31 European countries (the EU-28, Iceland, Norway and Turkey), whose delegates, representing national governments and institutions, are responsible for promoting and supporting female entrepreneurship at national level. WES is a discussion partner of the European Union and its members provide advice, support, information and contacts regarding existing support measures for women entrepreneurs. They also help identify good practices.
European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors
In 2009, the European Commission inaugurated the European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors to serve as inspirational role models for potential women entrepreneurs. The network is made up of around 270 entrepreneurs coming from 22 European countries.
European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs
In 2011 the European Commission inaugurated the European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs, who voluntarily provide counselling services to women starting and running new businesses. The mentors’ network enforces and complements the actions to promote, support and encourage women’s entrepreneurship.
European Entrepreneurship Education Network
The network exchanges information and experience, improving and creating synergies between the many initiatives in the field; moreover it is engaged in outreach and awareness activities as well as policy recommendations across several work streams that include national strategies, partnerships with business, support for teachers and the role of regional authorities.
It is a focal point for entrepreneurship education in Europe bringing together organisations and individuals from both the public and private sectors with strong records of accomplishment in entrepreneurship education at regional, national and European level. The EE-HUB is designed as the space where these stakeholders can work collectively to increase levels of entrepreneurial activities in schools across Europe.
Eurochambres Women’s Network
The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry launched the Eurochambres Women’s Network aimed at supporting female entrepreneurship in Europe. The network pursues the following objectives:
- promoting the exchange of information and the promotion of specific points of view within the network
- providing structured support to speed the development of women’s entrepreneurship, including the dissemination of ‘best practices’
- promoting the participation in public-private partnerships at local, national and European level
- encouraging the recognition of rights on equal opportunities
- providing support for institutional lobbying at all levels
- participating actively in the development of corporate social responsibility
- encouraging better conditions to promote a balance between private and professional life.
World Bank, Women’s Finance Hub
The World Bank is working to promote financial inclusion for women and in 2013 launched the Women’s Finance Hub, an online collaborative platform, as part of the SME finance forum. It aims to further advance access to finance for women-owned businesses by addressing missing data, disseminating research, promoting best practices and providing information on critical issues related to the women’s market at both international and European level.
For a detailed description of how gender can be mainstreamed in this phase of the policy cycle, click here.
In this phase, it’s appropriate to analyse budgets from a gender perspective. Gender budgeting is used to identify how budget allocations contribute to promoting gender equality. Gender budgeting brings visibility to how much public money is spent for women and men respectively. Thus, gender budgeting ensures that public funds are fairly distributed between women and men. It also contributes to accountability and transparency about how public funds are being spent.
Example of gender budgeting in entrepreneurship
UNDP, Gender responsiveness budget
Manual for trainers, 2005. The manual provide a set of lessons and tools addressed to trainers and resource people for gender-responsive budget (GRB) initiatives. Although not specifically focused on entrepreneurship, its tools can also be used in this field.
Examples of indicators for monitoring gender and entrepreneurship
When planning, don’t forget to establish monitoring and evaluation systems and indicators that will enable you to measure and compare the impact of the policy or programme on women and men over the timeframe of its implementation. Remember to define the appropriate times to monitor and evaluate your policy.
Percentage of entrepreneurs in total active labour force (entrepreneurship rate) by sex - BPfA Area F – Women and the Economy
Entrepreneurs are defined as who work in their own business, farm or professional practice to make a profit, and spend time on the operation of a business, or are in the process of setting up a business. These entrepreneurs consider the running of their enterprises to be their main activity. This definition is the same as the definition of a self-employed person in the labour force survey (LSF) database of Eurostat. Self-employed people may have one or more one or more persons and/or family workers or no people. In this case, they are defined as solo entrepreneurs, that is people who operate their own economic enterprise, or engage independently in a profession or trade. Solo entrepreneurs are also known as own account workers. The entrepreneurship rate is a good indicator to compare the entrepreneurial level of women and men in and between countries.
The entrepreneurship rate expresses the percentage of entrepreneurs in the total active labour force. The indicator is also included for the monitoring of Area F – Women and the Economy, named as Self-employment as percentage of total employment for women and men by age groups (15 – 64, 20 – 64, 15 – 24, 25 – 54, 55 – 64). This indicator provides information on the proportion of self-employed as a percentage of total employed persons. In 2013, self-employed women 15 – 64 are 9.8% of the total employed women, compared to 18.2% of men. The indicator is calculated from the Eurostat EU-LFS survey and available on the EIGE gender statistics page. Data for calculation are included in the Eurostat labour market database (online data code: lfsa_egaps).
Share of self-employed with and without employees by sex - BPfA Area F – Women and the Economy
The indicator is calculated as the percentage of self-employed persons with employees (employers) and without employees (own-account workers) from total employment. Self-employed persons are those who work in their own business, farm or professional practice. A self-employed person is considered to be working if she/he meets one of the following criteria: works for the purpose of earning profit, spends time on the operation of a business or is in the process of setting up her/his business. Self-employment embraces a wide range of work statuses and activities with different degrees of economic conditions and independence. Thus, it is important to distinguish among the self-employed with employees (employers) from those who work on their own (own-account workers). The share of self-employed with employees may be considered a better proxy for entrepreneurship than the share of overall self-employed in total employment although it remains unclear whether it adequately measures the concept. Moreover, the share of self-employed without employees can also incorporate a number of ‘bogus’ self-employed persons. The indicator is included for the monitoring of Area F – Women and the Economy. In 2013, self-employed women on their own account were 7.5% of the total employed women, compared to 12.6% of men. The indicator is calculated from Eurostat EU-LFS survey and is available on the EIGE gender statistics page (). Data for calculation are included in the Eurostat labour market database (online data code: lfsa_egaps).
When preparing calls for proposals in the framework of funding programmes, or terms of reference in the context of public procurement procedures (notably for contractors to be hired for policy support services), don’t forget to formalise gender-related requirements. This will ensure the projects and services which the European Commission will fund are not gender-blind or gender biased.
For a more detailed description of how gender can be mainstreamed in this phase of the policy cycle, click here.
In the implementation phase of a policy or programme, ensure that all who are involved are sufficiently aware about the relevant gender objectives and plans. If not, set up briefings and capacity-building initiatives according to staff needs. Think about researchers, proposal evaluators, monitoring and evaluation experts, scientific officers, programme committee members, etc.
Examples of capacity-building initiatives about gender and entrepreneurship
Women Entrepreneurs’ Association (WEA) capacity-building guide
This is a training package designed to assist women entrepreneurs’ associations in improving and sustaining their organisation. The emphasis is on the improvement of the capacity-building of the associations and on strengthening their ability to serve and advocate for their members.
Hungary – DOBBANTÓ: Women entrepreneur competence development
This is an accredited intensive training programme which includes the main elements of business start-up and how to run a business, but also looks at self-consciousness and communication skills.
World Bank - Resource point on female entrepreneurship
This online portal ‘responds to increasing demands for best practices and tools to integrate gender in private sector development and entrepreneurship promotion programmes, and address the needs and constraints faced by female entrepreneurs’ (World Bank, 2013b). It provides tools and guidelines, examples and good practices, findings of evaluations of projects and programmes, findings of studies and research and statistical data on the topic. The Resource Point provides four modules ‘to help task teams identify and address issues that limit women’s entrepreneurship opportunities’.
During the implementation of your policy or programme, publications, communications and press releases might be issued. Don’t forget to give visibility to gender issues and to pay attention to the language and visuals: these can convey gender stereotypes and gendered concepts, but they can also contribute to deconstructing stereotypes.
Example of gender language in entrepreneurship
Words matter: recognising the power of gendered language in entrepreneurship (October 6) - Williams, E., Sheffield, R., Tossan, V. and Etzol, P. (2014)
This paper presents the result of a survey on the traits of the ‘perfect’ entrepreneur showing that these are still gender biased.
A policy cycle or programme should be checked both during monitoring – and at the end – evaluation, of its implementation.
Monitoring the ongoing work allows for the follow-up of progress and remedying unforeseen difficulties. This exercise should take into account the indicators delineated in the planning phase and data collection based on those indicators.
At the end of a policy cycle or programme, a gender-sensitive evaluation should take place. Make your evaluation publicly accessible and strategically disseminate its results to promote its learning potential.
Example of a monitoring and evaluation on gender and entrepreneurship
DG ENTR evaluation policy: promotion of women innovators and entrepreneurship
In 2008, DG Enterprise and Industry carried out an evaluation on its policy on the promotion of women innovators and entrepreneurship. This report presents the findings of the study. The aim of the evaluation was to assess the effectiveness, efficiency, utility and constraints on promotion activities across Member States as the basis for policy recommendations to support the contribution of women innovators and entrepreneurship to the Lisbon Agenda.
For a detailed description of how gender can be mainstreamed in this phase of the policy cycle, click here.
Practical examples of gender mainstreaming in entrepreneurship
International Labour Organisation (ILO)
ILO-WED Women’s Entrepreneurship Development is part of the Small and Medium Enterprises Unit (SME). ILO-WED works on enhancing economic opportunities for women by carrying out affirmative actions in support of women starting, formalising and growing their enterprises, and by mainstreaming gender equality issues into the ILO’s work in enterprise development.
The key milestones of the EU entrepreneurship policy are presented below.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Think Small First – A ‘Small Business Act’ for Europe, SEC (2008) 2101; SEC (2008) 2102; 25/06/2008, COM(2008) 394 final.
Launch of the strategy for equality between women and men 2010 – 2015 aiming also at promoting female entrepreneurship. Available here.
Directive 2010/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity and repealing Council Directive 86/613/EEC.
Launch of the Youth on the move initiative, which puts entrepreneurship among the basic skills that schools should transmit to students.
European Parliament Resolution of 13 September 2011 on women entrepreneurship in small and medium-sized enterprises (2010/2275(INI)), (2013/C 51 E/07).
European Parliament Resolution on women and business leadership. Available here.
COM(2011)682 final (adopted 25/102011) Creating a favourable climate for social enterprises, key stakeholders in the social economy and innovation.
Social business initiative, with the aim of creating an eco-system conducive to developing social businesses and to facilitating access to funding. The social business initiative proposes ways to improve social businesses’ access to funding, including EU funding through structural funds.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan: reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe, 9/01/2013.
Current policy priorities at EU level
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Europe’s economy. They represent 99% of all businesses in the EU. In the past five years, they have created around 85% of new jobs and provided two thirds of total private sector employment in the EU. The European Commission considers SMEs and entrepreneurship as key to ensuring economic growth, innovation, job creation and social integration in the EU. Some of the challenges to be tackled include:
- education should offer the right foundation for an entrepreneurial career
- difficult access to finance and markets
- difficulty in transferring businesses
- the fear of ‘punitive’ sanctions in case of failure
- burdensome administrative procedures.
The overarching policy of EU for entrepreneurship and SMEs can be summarised as follows:
- Creating a business-friendly environment: At the centre of the Commission’s action is the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) that provides a comprehensive SME policy for the EU and EU countries. The SBA promotes the ‘Think small first’ principle and promotes entrepreneurial spirit among European citizens, and more on a business-friendly environment.
- Promoting entrepreneurship: The Commission promotes entrepreneurship through the Entrepreneurship Action Plan, supports entrepreneurship education, and provides support tools for aspiring entrepreneurs.
- Improving access to new markets and internationalisation: The Commission’s priority is to ensure that enterprises can rely on a business-friendly environment and make the most out of cross-border activities, both within the EU Single Market and outside the EU.
- Facilitating access to finance: Access to finance is the most pressing issue for many small enterprises. The Commission works on improving the financing environment for SMEs and provides information on funding. The Late Payment Directive strengthens businesses’ rights to prompt payment.
- Supporting SME competitiveness and innovation: Promoting competitiveness and innovation are key aspects of EU policy in relation to industry and enterprise, in particular for SMEs.
- Providing key support networks and information for SMEs.