New GEM Report Underscores Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs

Illustration of five diverse women looking up

Women entrepreneurs and business owners are a diverse group that remains active across all industries, sectors, and product and service markets, but more work needs to be done to close the gender gap, according to the latest report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). 

GEM’s new 2022/2023 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report, titled Challenging Bias and Stereotypes, was released November 13. Amanda Elam, research fellow at the Diana International Research Institute at Babson College, was the lead author. 

The report underscores that women entrepreneurs continue to play an important role in driving economic growth and advancing social development in their countries and communities. “Despite harmful stereotypes that question competence, women entrepreneurs are driving innovation and economic growth in their countries, communities, and families,” Elam said. 

However, “women also face inequality in the home, carrying a heavier burden of family responsibilities, which contributes to increased economic dependence and decreased interpersonal power and privilege,” the report concludes. “These factors combine to perpetuate harmful stereotypes that hold back even the most privileged women entrepreneurs in terms of legitimacy and access to financial capital and other critical resources necessary for business growth and success.” 

The GEM report also takes a closer look at key topics to better understand gender-based patterns, including the importance of segmentation, digitalization, and sustainability. Among its key findings and recommendations, the report emphasizes the need to better support women entrepreneurs who are starting and developing high-growth, high-innovation, and large-market businesses. 

Key Findings 

GEM, a global consortium of academic researchers co-founded by Babson College in 1999, studies entrepreneurial motivation and activity around the world. Its annual women’s report examines trends across 49 countries, five global regions, and three national income levels. And, it focuses on key GEM indicators, including gender differences in participation rates at various points in the entrepreneurial life cycle. 

Among the key statistical findings in the GEM Women’s Entrepreneurship Report: 

  • One in six women reported an intention to start a business in the near future, compared with one in five men. Entrepreneurial intentions were highest for women in low-income countries (28.2%) and lowest in high-income countries (11%).  
  • One in 10 women were in the earliest stages of starting a business compared with one in eight men. The highest startup rates for women were found in low-income countries (13.3%) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (21.2%), with Guatemala (28.2%) and Colombia (26.1%) leading worldwide.  
  • Women represented one in four high-growth entrepreneurs across the countries in the GEM survey, with higher proportions in low-income countries (one in three) and North America (two in five). Women make up over two-fifths of entrepreneurs serving international markets in Latin America and the Caribbean (43.1%), and Europe (41.3%) and comprise the majority of innovation entrepreneurs in Togo (58.7%), Indonesia (55.3%), Romania (54.5%), Colombia (53.3%), and Iran (52%). 
  • Globally, the majority of startup activity was observed in the wholesale/retail sector for both women (48.6%) and men (40.1%) in 2022. However, women were far less active than men in the information and communications technology sector, where most of the global venture funding is invested, with just 2.3% of women operating there compared with 5.3% of men.  
  • More than half of both women and men entrepreneurs globally reported plans to adopt new digital tools. However, women were more likely to say that digital tools were not necessary for the operation of their businesses than men. In fact, almost half of women in low-income countries said digital tools were not necessary for their business operations compared with less than one-quarter in high-income countries. 

Report Recommendations 

Among its recommendations, the new GEM report emphasizes the continuing need to debunk stereotypes and support women entrepreneurs who are building high-growth, high-innovation, and large-market businesses. 

“Stereotypes that frame women entrepreneurs as a disadvantaged group feed a false narrative that women lack the same competency as men regarding business leadership,” the report says. “In fact, the opposite is true. Women entrepreneurs are finding ways to grow large, successful businesses despite harmful gender stereotypes that interfere with access to critical business networks and resources. Imagine what women could do if their competence as business leaders was assumed rather than questioned at every turn.” 

In addition to supporting high-potential women entrepreneurs, the report offers three other recommendations: 

  1. Understand the importance of segmentation for designing effective entrepreneurship support for women entrepreneurs. “More analysis of gender differences within specific sectors and segments is needed to control for the inevitable influence of gendered structural differences in entrepreneurial activity rates,” the report says. 
  1. Support digitalization costs and access for women entrepreneurs. “Digitalization comes with some extra challenges in terms of both cost and access for small businesses, especially in the context of the gender digital divide and implications for markets in emerging economies and rural markets,” the report says. 
  1. Celebrate sustainability. “Governments can provide incentives in procurement processes that benefit women-led firms that place sustainability practices at the center of their business strategy,” the report says. 

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