There is no doubt that women are incredibly important in business. My mother was and still is exceptionally entrepreneurial and she was largely my inspiration to start my first business as a teenager. However all the stats show that there are significantly fewer female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs, with global studies affirming that in some countries the ratio is as unbalanced as 5:1. The question is why? I spent several weeks trying to discover exactly why this is the case, talking to female entrepreneurs, male entrepreneurs and psychologists. Unemployment has reached unprecedented levels; as entrepreneurs are important sources of job creation, we should be concerned for economic reasons, when any group of society is seemingly excluded, even in part, from taking part in such an economically valuable pursuit.
The odds of a man starting a business at any point in time are double that of a woman. (Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics 2010)
Women only make up 10 percent of the founders at high-growth tech companies. (Lesa Mitchell, a department vice president at Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, as reported in the New York Times in June, 2012.)
There are more male early-stage entrepreneurs in all but 2 of the 54 economies, than early stage female entrepreneurs. (The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2011 Global Report)
I asked a diverse group of people for their opinion on this issue and I analysed several recent studies; below are some of the possible factors I found to be important:
We live in a patriarchal society, even though things are improving, women are still socialised to be less risk taking. Additionally, women tend to be the primary care givers and are not in the easiest position to take risks if they have children. Consequently, it is not only more difficult for women to practically take the steps needed, but there are also fewer female role models in powerful economic positions for women to aspire to.
One thing that is critical is women's belief in their own capabilities. A 2009 study showed that less than half (47.7%) of women believe they are capable of starting a business, while well over half, (62.1%) of men believe they are capable. That lack of confidence persists through all economies and cultures studied - (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report 2009). However, it's hard to determine causality here and this lack of confidence may be the result of societal influences or other factors.
Fear of failure & risk aversion
Results from a three-year study carried out by psychological consultancy limited (viewable on the British Psychological Societies website) on over 20 occupational sectors across four continents, involving almost 2000 individual assessments with people from a wide range of professions concluded that women are less likely to take risks.