Woman entrepreneurs - The untapped resources

30.01.2015 13:40

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report (GEM, 2012: 2), women represent one of the most underutilized resources: “If women are not actively engaged as entrepreneurs, the job creation capacity of half the world’s population is lost”. What about woman entrepreneurs in Switzerland?

In an international comparison, Switzerland ranks high with regards to the womens’ total entrepreneurial activity (TEA), a measure which includes those women that are in the process of starting or running a new venture (early-stage woman entrepreneurs). According to the GEM report, Switzerland has an equal proportion of male and female entrepreneurs in the 15-64 age groups. More precisely, the report shows that 49% of nascent ventures were started by women, which puts Switzerland at the first place of all innovation-based economies (GEM Switzerland, 2013).

When considering women in established businesses, the story is a slightly different one: The proportion of women in established start-ups is significantly lower in Switzerland than in other innovation-driven economies (www.kmu.admin.ch). This is confirmed by the Swiss Start-up Monitor database, which shows that only 14% of the registered startups are female solo-entrepreneurs or female co-founders. Of course, this very low level might be partially explained by the fact, that the Start-up Monitor predominantly accounts for high-tech start-ups, which tend to be rather male-dominated.

Overall, the proportion of female entrepreneurs has been historically lower than that of male entrepreneurs in most countries. This global trend may be explained by various social, cultural, or economic factors (GEM Switzerland, 2013). For example, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report found that in contrast to young men, young women are less likely to see opportunities, have a higher fear of failure and therefore, less likely to engage in entrepreneurship. This is explained by the fact that women are less often socialized to be economically independent, or to be entrepreneurial. Additionally, one prevalent influence on women entrepreneurship is the role expectations of women hold in their families. Traditional gender roles, where the responsibility for caring for the family is predominantly assigned to women, are still very present. Thus, women entrepreneurs often need to reconcile both family and entrepreneurship, which often constrain their ability to establish their businesses (GEM, 2012). Furthermore, covert discriminatory practices sometimes occur, specifically in obtaining higher level resources such as equity capital or corporate procurement contracts. “These covert practices are subtle, and sometimes not even recognized by entrepreneurs, in that they have to do with status expectations or gendered roles,” the GEM report says.

To sum up, the rate of women entrepreneurship in Switzerland is already well on track. However, there is much more that can be done to maintain or raise the level of women entrepreneurship as far as possible. For instance, there are apparently barriers to be overcome when it comes to gaining a competitive edge in the market. In this regard, it is absolutely crucial to expand social support systems and force acceptance and promotion of women as entrepreneurs. Efforts of this kind require not only adapted framework conditions, but also a change in society.

The Swiss Start-up Monitor is a joint research initiative of the University of St.Gallen, ETH Zurich and University of Basel supported by the Commission of Technology and Innovation (CTI), Gebert Rüf Stiftung and AVINA Stiftung. The main goal is to build up an exclusive panel of Swiss start-ups in order to foster entrepreneurship on a micro- and on a macro-economic level. This aim will be achieved by collecting and analyzing data of Swiss start-ups on an aggregate and anonymous level, providing high data security and user controllability at any time. The recent sample size is 1832 start-ups in the public directory and 791 in the private area for registered user. Visit the Start-up Monitor Homepage to get more information: www.startupmonitor.ch.

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