EU entrepreneurship suffering from gender gap

Women face discrimination when trying to access business funding making them less likely to become entrepreneurs, writes Barbara Matera.

By Barbara Matera

03 Nov 2015

Since the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, encouraging entrepreneurship has been one of the EU's top priorities. Yet when it comes to rates, Europe still lags behind the US and China.

Across the member states, it has been widely recognised that the Union needs more entrepreneurs to stimulate growth and job creation.

Yet there are very few entrepreneurs in the EU, particularly among women. In 2012, only 31 per cent of all self-employed EU citizens were women. 


In 2014, the female employment rate was 59 per cent, out of line with the Europe 2020 target of 75 per cent employment, nor with the employment rate for men, which is at 70.1 per cent.

There are several inequalities between men and women in entrepreneurship. When women decide to start a business, they usually pick a sector associated with their gender; for example health, social work or education. In 2012, the net income for female entrepreneurs was six per cent lower than in men.

Many women say they became entrepreneurs out of necessity, because it allows them to combine work while caring for their children or the elderly; they also say entrepreneurship makes it easier to work from home. Women who aspire to become entrepreneurs face many obstacles.

The report drafted in Parliament's women's rights and gender equality committee focuses on the hurdles women face to access funding to start a company, as well as the gender gap in social entrepreneurship.

We found several differences in how men and women decide to fund their businesses. Women are less likely to seek external financing such as bank loans or supplier credit, opting instead for costlier funding.

They may also have less knowledge about financing options and are often discriminated against by financial service providers. 

Stereotypes about male and female entrepreneurial abilities may also influence stakeholders' judgements of new businesses.

The gender gap in social entrepreneurship is smaller than that of traditional entrepreneurship. Involving women in social entrepreneurship allows them to contribute to local communities and social inclusion, and also empowers them as entrepreneurs by providing them with the necessary skills and confidence. 

Men are more likely than women to start a social enterprise, but women are more active as entrepreneurs in social ventures.

If the EU is serious about encouraging female entrepreneurship, it should ensure that women can access funding for their businesses, and that they are represented in social entrepreneurship. The EU should focus on encouraging women to become entrepreneurs and help them overcome any obstacles in their path.


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