According to the second annual Gender-Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI), more than 75 per cent of the 30 countries surveyed are not meeting the most fundamental conditions required for female entrepreneurs to prosper.
The index, commissioned by Dell, is aimed to raise awareness about the state of the playing field for female entrepreneurs and guide leaders, policymakers and law-makers in improving conditions for the ladies in business in their respective countries.
On that note, below are the main challenges that have been identified by the index:
1. Access to capital is still difficult
Access to a formal bank account is critical for entrepreneurs, especially since it is a necessary precursor to the credit financing that fuels business growth.
Globally, women receive less outside funding for their businesses than men.
In 14 out of 30 countries surveyed, 50 per cent or more of the female population remain unbanked, especially in Bangladesh and India. For example, there is a 17 per cent difference between males and females in terms of access to bank accounts in India.
In contrast, Japan (97 per cent) and South Korea (93 per cent) have a higher percentage of women than men with bank accounts, which has pushed them to the top half of the index.
2. Many industries remain male-dominated
Occupation crowding, or the existence of ‘male’ and ‘female’ jobs in a country’s economy, not only contributes to the gender wage gap but also results in the concentration of women’s entrepreneurial activity within specific sectors, which can be detrimental to fully utilising a nation’s capacity for innovation.
Out of the 30 countries, only eight received an overall balanced ratio across employment sectors, and in India and Pakistan, formal employment is so highly sex segregated that no employment sectors are balanced.
Thankfully though, some countries and industries are beginning to address these occupational inequalities through voluntary quotas and targeted initiatives.
3. More women are needed at the top
Even when the business environment is right, social norms can affect general societal support for women as entrepreneurs and their access to experiences as decision makers and leaders, both in and outside business.
Local attitudes towards women in executive positions can also effect whether women choose to take on these higher roles and responsibilities. For most countries in the Asia Pacific Japan region, women are not strongly represented in management positions.
Four countries (China, India, Malaysia and Thailand) recorded less than 30 per cent female managers, while in two countries in the Asia Pacific Japan region, the percentage of women is 10 per cent or less: South Korea (10 per cent) and Japan (9 per cent).
While education forms the foundation for high potential entrepreneurship, women need an equal shot at management experience to achieve entrepreneurial success.
4. Women’s rights must be addressed first
In 22 of the 30 countries surveyed in the index, married women have fewer rights than married men and in 21 countries women lack the same access to employment as men.
In eight countries women do not enjoy the same legal access to property as men. Three (Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand) of these eight are in the Asia Pacific Japan region.
A number of countries also limit women’s access to public spaces through legal restrictions and discriminatory practices. For instance, in Bangladesh and Malaysia, discriminatory practices limit women’s access to public spaces.
In order to foster female entrepreneurship, these countries must first address these fundamental weaknesses and take steps towards ensuring women equal rights.
To provide tangible examples on how women entrepreneurs can overcome challenges and maximise the opportunities flagged in the study, Dell commissioned an e-book, Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One, featuring case studies of 10 women entrepreneurs, which is currently available for download on Dell.com/women.