Today, women are breaking free from traditional and gender-specific roles and participate in the business world. Some of them feel the need to be their own boss by creating their own business, as the passion for ideas and a need for flexibility and independence are the factors that motivate women to be self-employed. By choosing to be entrepreneurs, women who were usually confined to the service sector have entered many professions that were often male-dominated, such as industry, technologies, design, architecture, manufacturing etc. Women entrepreneurs represent approximately one-third of all entrepreneurs worldwide, an easily comparable figure with that of the EU, as women constitute 34.4% of the self-employed, 20% in the industry sector.
Women entrepreneurs represent one-third of entrepreneurs worldwide.
The choice to start their own business comes to women at different stages in life. Statistics agree that women entrepreneurs have overall higher education degrees, but the specific profiles of women entrepreneurs vary: in some countries, such as Belgium and Sweden, a high amount of women entrepreneurs choose to start their own business as a second profession after having been disappointed by their previous career, and thus launch their company at around 40 to 60 years old. In Eastern countries, women entrepreneurs are younger - under 35 years old. Disappointed by their current job, they feel the need to be independent and start their business in addition to a main activity. Another profile of women entrepreneurs is the 'mompreneur'. 'Mompreneurs' are women who arrive in their late twenties or early thirties, who have a job, but choose to start their own business while they are pregnant or when their children are little, as working in a company sometimes doesn’t allow women to conciliate work and family life easily. Starting their own business becomes then a solution for these moms, who then can manage their time and life as they wish. In France, 54% of the 'mompreneurs' are former employees, 12% are former senior executives and 8% are former stay-at-home mums. As bosses, women entrepreneurs often offer better advantages to their employees, such as health-care benefit packages, job training, flexibility in working hours, and more vacation and paid leave. Moreover, women tend to employ a more diverse workforce, with a better respect of gender balance (52% women and 48% men), while male-own businesses tend to employ often more men than women (35% women and 65% men). Women entrepreneurs are not afraid of taking risks, and are even more likely to take risks than men as far as their business is concerned, even if it seems that the wish to not take risks is the first reason why women engage in entrepreneurship. Furthermore, monetary gain is a less important factor for women, as the philanthropic contribution to society such as the possibility to create jobs and passion for their activity takes often over the need for profit. Their ability to multitask, properly balancing work and family life, is what makes them successful.
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Women's employment - key facts and figures
In 2012, women made up only 31% of self-employed European citizens, and only 10% of working women are self-employed.
The global labour force participation rate for women rose between 1980 and 2009 from 50.2% to 51.8%, while the male rate fell from 82.0% to 77.7%, with a huge gap of 26 percentage points in 2009. Studies have shown that if women’s paid employment rates were raised to the same level as men’s, GDP would rise by 13% in the Eurozone. Women perceive entrepreneurship as a good career choice. However, they are more likely than men to prefer working as an employee (63% to 53%) and less likely to favour self-employment (42% to 33%). Only 10% of all employed women pursued an entrepreneurial career. Men (29%) more often than women (17%) have already started a business or plan to do so. In addition, women are to some extent more likely than men (53% to 46%) to agree that one should not start a business if there is a risk of failure.
The UK government says that women are the largest underrepresented group in terms of participation in enterprise. Only 15% of the 4.7 million UK enterprises are majority women-led and if women started businesses at the same rate as men, there would be 150,000 extra start-ups each year in the country.
In 2011, four out of ten unemployed persons was a young women or man. In 2010 the female youth unemployment rate stood at 13.1 percent compared to the male rate of 12.6 per cent. Women dominate the service sector (47% of all employed women against 41% of men’s employment); are more likely than men to work in agriculture (38% of all employed women against 33% of all employed men); and are much less represented in the field of industry (16% against 26% of all employed men). The number of women who actually own businesses in science or technology in the EU lies within an estimated five percent to 15%.
In Sweden in 2008, more than 131,000 companies were run by women having more than 35 billion euros in total turnover, employing around 358,000 people and paying their employees more than 6 billion euros in salaries.
In advanced economies, involuntary part-time employment has increased two-thirds and temporary employment has increased more than half. In two-thirds of emerging and developing countries where data is available, the share of informal employment stands at more than 40 per cent. Studies in 30 developed and developing countries show that despite women’s increasing labor force participation, they devote more time than men to housework and childcare, with differences ranging from about 50% more in Sweden to about 3 times more in Italy.
In France, 38% of entrepreneurs were women in 2012. Eighteen percent of French women are planning or are in the process of creating their own business, which represents 5 million new entrepreneurs.
The EU average of the gender pay gap is estimated at 16.2%, with great disparities between the Member States (less than six percent in Poland, Italy and Slovenia, and more than 20% in Germany, Estonia and Finland). In 2010, women accounted for just below 12% of board members in the largest companies in the European Union, and for just over 3% of board chairs.
In Bulgaria, 75% of women SME owners state that they use foreign languages, compared to 61% of male SME owners.
- Decent work and Women’s Economic Empowerment: good policy and practices – Policy Brief, UN Women and ILO, 2012
- European Network to Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship, activity report 2011
- Les Mompreneurs en 5 chiffres, Tiphaine Thuillier, Lentreprise.com, 24/05/2013
- Women’s Entrepreneurship in the EU, European Parliament Library Briefing, 30/04/2013
- Entrepreneurship at a glance, OECD 6/06/2012.