Just one out of five of Ireland’s entrepreneurs are women

7 Mar 2018

Image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

Irish women’s motivation to start and run a business appears to be low, as only 10pc want to do so in the next three years.

Women entrepreneurs make up just 20.1pc of all of Ireland’s entrepreneurs, according to a new study by Mastercard.

The study found that, while Ireland has all the right conditions for businesses owned and led by women to thrive, there is a problem with motivation and self-belief.

‘Women entrepreneurs have made remarkable strides as business owners around the world; however, we cannot ignore the deeply entrenched gender bias continuing to hamper their progress’

Mastercard found that, in terms of motivation, only 10pc of women surveyed want to start and run a business in the next three years.

The study showed that a lack of self-belief can be especially potent in deterring women from starting their own businesses.

This may explain why, although Ireland scores highly for having the right conditions for businesses to thrive (10th) in Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs, the number of women-owned businesses is low.

The index tracked the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs and business owners across 57 markets spanning five geographic regions: Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and North America.

Ireland ranked 10th with a score of 63.7, up two places on 2017, and just behind the UK (67.9)

The ranking was led by New Zealand with a score of 74.2, followed by Sweden (71.3), Canada (70.9), the US (70.8) and Singapore (69.2).

“Women entrepreneurs have made remarkable strides as business owners around the world; however, we cannot ignore the deeply entrenched gender bias continuing to hamper their progress,” said Martina Hund-Mejean, CFO, Mastercard.

“The index serves as an informative mouthpiece to inspire changes at the economic, political and social levels, and empower women to run successful businesses and lead richer, more fulfilling lives,” she added.

Cultural bias continues even in the most advanced economies

Overall, the index suggests that women entrepreneurs appear to thrive better in economies that are more developed, such as New Zealand, Sweden and Canada.

Compared to their peers in emerging markets, women business owners in developed countries were able to draw from a greater pool of resources and opportunities, including access to capital, financial services and academic programmes.

However, the index indicates key exceptions to this trend. For instance, developed markets with strong conditions for businesses to thrive are not immune to cultural bias against female entrepreneurship.

Japan tracked the largest decline in scores on the index (55.4 to 51.1, 46th), dragged down by a significant decline (30.9) in activity rates for women entrepreneurs.

Findings suggest that this decline could be attributed to prevailing discourse that perceives women as inferior to men in both social and corporate settings.

However, more encouragingly, Mastercard’s research also suggests that the opportunity for entrepreneurship is not necessarily aligned to the pace of a market’s economic development.

Emerging economies such as Ghana (46.4pc) – one of the index’s three newly added markets along with Malawi and Nigeria – Uganda (33.8pc) and Vietnam (31.3pc) were found to have higher women business ownership rates.

Women in these markets are deemed as necessity-driven entrepreneurs, spurred by a need for survival despite their lack of financial capital and access to enabling services.

“Across these 57 economies, gender bias constraints continue to slow the progress of women as business owners,” said Ann Cairns, president of international markets at Mastercard.

“Ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March), we hope the study’s findings can serve as a timely reminder for governments and organisations to bolster support provided to budding and working women business owners across all areas, from greater financial inclusion to wider access to education,” Cairns said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years