By Sally Low
Research on women and entrepreneurship shows that women are less likely to start a business than men. In scientific, technical and professional services, for example, there is a ratio of nearly 2:1 in favour of men, yet qualified women are equally represented when entering the sector workforce.
When women do start businesses, however, they are more likely than men to become established and sustainable over the long term.
There is also a gap between women’s entrepreneurship in Europe and the United States.
The US shows much higher female entrepreneurship than in Europe; and much faster resulting growth in women-owned businesses than men. If the European economies collectively could show the same level of female entrepreneurship and growth in women-owned businesses, the European economy could add around € 600 billion or 2.5% to its GDP, and that would mean an extra 5 million jobs across Europe.
There is of course an equally important issue we face today, which is to bring more women into leadership roles, not just in business, but in all walks of life.
There are still some men who complain when women are promoted over their heads, but businesses are increasingly recognizing how they have previously neglected the potential of women leaders.
Eighty to ninety per cent of the people in charge may still be men, but it will not be too long before this imbalance changes for the better. My view is that it needs to change faster, so that we see a shift away from women, especially in big organisations, being simply the backup team to men, to being the leaders in their own right.
For our male colleagues, my message is that you need to accept our role as equal leaders, get used to how things are changing for the better and, I hope, enthusiastically support that change, not least because gender equality is not a zero sum game. Everybody benefits. The economy grows. Businesses grow. And opportunities will increase for all who want to work hard and grasp them.