From research, recent global trends on the landscape of women entrepreneurs include an increasing number of women-owned businesses, women entrepreneurs finding it difficult to obtain business funding, and a less favorable business environment for women-owned businesses while recent global trends on the landscape of women in the workplace include gender inequality in leadership, increased sexual harassment awareness at the workplace, and disproportionate impacts from unpaid caregiving responsibilities. In addition, the effects of COVID on women entrepreneurs include an impact on the sales and revenue of women-owned businesses, increased care demands because of COVID restrictions, and difficulty in adapting to digital operations while the effects of COVID on women in the workplace include increased intimate partner and family violence, higher risk of infection and exposure to COVID, and disproportionate job losses. A detailed overview of the research findings and strategy follows below.
Global Trends on the Landscape of Women Entrepreneurs
1. Increasing Number of Women-owned Businesses
- According to Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs report, even though women entrepreneurs face many challenges, they are opening successful enterprises faster than ever before. The report took into account the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs and business owners in 58 countries across the world.
- According to the World Bank, female participation in the ownership of new businesses has been experiencing systematic growth among newly registered firms.
- However, female business ownership is not similar across the world with different regions having widely differing statistics of ownership.
- Globally, 34% of small, medium, and large businesses are owned by women. Additionally, regional statistics are as follows: East Asia & Pacific – 47%, Europe & Central Asia – 33%, Latin America & Caribbean – 50%, Middle East & North Africa – 23%, South Asia – 18%, and Sub-Saharan Africa – 29%.
- According to a report by Visa, the global growth rate of female entrepreneurship has been increasing faster than that of male entrepreneurs with more than 250 million women engaging in entrepreneurship activities.
2. Persistent Difficulties in Obtaining Business Funding
- According to the WorldBank, “women face greater challenges in accessing financial accounts and services than men.” Except for North America, the share of women that have access to a financial account at a financial institution is less than the rate of men.
- In Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, less than 40% of women have financial accounts while in Europe & Central Asia, men are 4% more likely to have financial accounts than women.
- The gender gap that exists in financial inclusion is especially destructive to women entrepreneurs that are trying to access credit facilities to start, operate, and expand their business enterprises.
- A joint report by the World Bank, the International Financial Corporation, and SME Finance Forum suggested that women entrepreneurs face a $1.5 trillion financing deficits while a study by Visa noted that 66% of women entrepreneurs in the United States reported difficulty funding their businesses.
3. Less Favorable Business Environment
- In addition to social and traditional constraints, another challenge affecting women entrepreneurs is a lack of access to well-established business networks and opportunities. These challenges restrict the participation of women entrepreneurs in business across the world.
- In some countries, religion hinders the ownership of businesses by women while in others “women may be required to have a male partner that will do deals, negotiate, and be the face of the business.” These are instances of unfavorable business environments for women business owners as opposed to their male counterparts.
- Additionally, women face a greater challenge in getting support because of a lack of relevant business connection and a lack of access to financial and emotional support.
- The global trading environment, especially in the developing world, is unfavorable to female entrepreneurs. This is because the business community is dominated by males and the present gender gap naturally leads to women finding it harder to succeed in such a business environment. A report by the International Trade Centre and Chatham House on gender and procurement noted that globally, only 1% of government procurement tenders are awarded to women.
- In 1994, the United States federal government decided to allocate 5% of all its contracting dollars to women-owned businesses. This threshold was only achieved in March 2016 after more than 20 years and despite this, women-owned enterprises still have “a 21% lower chance of procuring a federal contract than men-owned businesses of a similar nature.”
Global Trends on the Landscape of Women in the Workplace
1. Gender Inequality in Leadership
- According to UN Women, women remain less likely to participate in the global labor market than men with a labor force participation rate of 63% for women aged between 25-54 years and 94% for men of the same age. If younger women aged 15 years and up and older women aged 55 years and up are considered, the labor participation rate drops to 48.5%, a figure that is 26.5% below that of men.
- In leadership roles, women professionals account for only 29% of senior roles globally. This figure goes further down when looking at Fortune 500 companies where only 5% of CEOs are women.
- UN Women noted that “companies greatly benefit from increased employment and leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organizational effectiveness and growth.” However, despite these benefits, gender inequality still exists in business leadership.
- Even though gender equality is now a global issue that governments and corporations are trying to actively tackle with changes in laws and policies, the trend of gender inequality in leadership roles still persists.
- For example, in the United States, for every 100 men promoted to managerial positions, only 85 women are also promoted. This resulted in women being significantly outnumbered by men in entry-level management at the beginning of 2020.
- Another example from the United States notes that in the legal profession, women account for 45% of associates but only 22.7% of partners and 19% of equity partners while in medicine, women account for 40% of all physicians and surgeons but only 16% of permanent medical school deans.
2. Increased Sexual Harassment Awareness at the Workplace
- As the issue of gender equality continues to gain global focus, corporations also continue to invest time and money in sexual harassment awareness. A 2018 UN Women survey that looked at 189 economies found that around 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace.
- A Pew Research study that was carried out before the #MeToo movement found that around 50% of women that work in workplaces that have mostly male employees reported sexual harassment being a problem while 32% of women that work in workplaces that have more female employees reported the same.
- After the #MeToo movement, more and more women came out to report sexual harassment leading to media attention that pressured employers to address workplace sexual harassment head-on.
- A survey that was conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management noted that 32% of its members reported that “their organizations have made changes to sexual harassment prevention training in the last year” while an additional 22% planned to make changes within the next year. The most popular sexual harassment changes among corporations are the inclusion of a workplace-civility component, customized awareness training, and training for all workers during onboarding.
3. Disproportionate Impacts from Unpaid Caregiving Responsibilities
- According to UN Women, women spend around 2.5 times more time doing unpaid work and performing domestic care responsibilities than men. Although unpaid work is critical to the functioning of the economy, it usually goes uncounted and unrecognized.
- If women’s unpaid work was given a monetary value, it would constitute between 10% and 39% of gross domestic product.
- Childbirth is considered a prominent gender gap because researchers found that approximately 40% of women stop working or work part-time 10 years after graduation, compared to just 5% of men.
- Part of the reason behind the statistics presented above is the presence of “labor market institutions and a corporate environment that makes it difficult to stay employed during pregnancy and to return to full-time work after childbearing.”
- Because parental leave programs make it easier for new mothers to take care of their newborn child, secure their jobs, and earn an income while on leave, the governments of many countries have stepped in to make these benefits mandatory.
- However, as providing parental benefits is costly, firms may be incentivized to minimize/reduce these costs by creating a hiring policy that is based on lower starting wages and reduced job opportunities for women.
Effects of COVID on Women Entrepreneurs
1. Impact on Sales and Revenue
- The COVID pandemic has resulted in a decrease in the sales and revenue of most women-owned enterprises.
- A study that was carried out by the International Trade Center reported that 64% of women-led firms declared that their business operations were strongly affected by the COVID pandemic as compared to 52% of men-led companies.
- Another survey by WEConnect International reported that more than 90% of women entrepreneurs reported a decrease in sales during the pandemic. Additionally, they also reported that they had only 3 months of cash flow for their businesses to survive on.
- From the information presented above, it can be concluded that the COVID pandemic disproportionately impacted the business owned by women as compared to those owned by men.
2. Increased Care Demands Because of COVID Restrictions
- The COVID pandemic resulted in global restrictions that were meant to slow down the spread of the virus. These restrictions led to billions of people across the world staying home as a result of physical distancing advisories.
- One-third of female entrepreneurs reported that “increased care demands have reduced their ability to focus their attention on their businesses, hurting their ability to generate income.”
- COVID restrictions resulted in more unpaid care work for women because children were out of school and there were heightened care needs for the elderly.
- Consequently, during the pandemic, virtually all women entrepreneurs, regardless of socio-economic status, were disadvantaged by additional unpaid care work such as childcare and domestic responsibilities. This has resulted in a significant impact on the productivity, stress levels, and health of women entrepreneurs and workers.
3. Difficulty in Adapting to Digital Operations
- A survey of more than 600 women-led micro, small, and medium-sized companies in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East noted that many women-owned firms are “struggling to make the shift to adapt quickly to digital operations“
- This shift is necessary because the COVID pandemic revealed the importance of digital technologies in ensuring business continuity. However, the employees, suppliers, and consumers of many companies were not prepared for this mandatory digital shift.
- For women-owned businesses, the digital shift became even more challenging in low and middle-income countries because over 300 million fewer women than men use mobile internet. This figure represents a 23% gender gap.
- Barriers to digital technologies, connectivity, and tools are reducing the ability of women entrepreneurs to work remotely and access digital markets.
Effects of COVID on Women in the Workplace
1. Increased Intimate Partner and Family Violence
- The COVID pandemic resulted in worldwide restrictions on movement in numerous countries across the world. The restrictions that developed from the pandemic ended up resulting in more incidences of intimate partner and family violence.
- The chance of women and children being exposed to domestic violence because of the isolation, and stay-at-home orders that were meant to curb the spread of the virus dramatically increased as families started to spend more time in close contact and isolation. Violence risks grew even higher when potential economic and job losses were factored in.
- The Easter Mediterranean region is home to the second-highest prevalence of violence against women globally with a rate of 37%. This is because of the existence of structural systems that oppresses women at different levels of society.
- Information from 2 countries in the region pointed to an increase of between 50% and 60% in the number of domestic violence cases during the pandemic. On the other hand, the UN estimated that intimate partner and domestic violence cases increased by 20% globally during the lockdowns.
2. Higher Risk of Infection and Exposure to COVID
- In reference to the Impact of COVID-19 on Women policy brief, women are more likely to be at risk of infection and exposure because of occupational sex-segregation i.e. globally, women make up around 70% of health workers and are more likely to be frontline health personnel such as nurses, midwives, and community health workers.
- In some countries, although women hold jobs in the high-risk service sector, they have less access to personal protective equipment and correctly sized protective equipment. Despite this disproportionate effects of COVID on women, they are “often not reflected in national or global decision- making on the response to COVID-19.”
- Examples of how women in the workplace are at a higher risk of infection and exposure to COVID comes from Spain and Italy. In Spain, a total of 7,329 healthcare workers were infected and out of this number, 72% were women while in Italy, a total of 10,657 healthcare workers were infected with 66% of the number accounting for women.
3. Disproportionate Job Loses
- The COVID pandemic resulted in widespread loss of jobs on a global scale. However, women were affected more than men as “the pandemic and measures to prevent its spread drove a disproportionate increase in women’s unemployment as compared to men and also decreased their overall working time.”
- The jobs that women held were more affected than those held by men because the most impacted sectors have more women than men workers. Women are over-represented in many of the worst-hit industries such as food service, retail, and entertainment. For instance, 40% of all women in employment work in hard-hit sectors as compared to 36.6% of employed men.
- In April, the pandemic resulted in around 20.5 million Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits after losing their jobs. Out of the above figure, 55% were women.
- The national unemployment rate of the United States increased from 4.4% to 14.7% in April and although women make up a smaller percentage of the American workforce, a slight majority of the people that lost their jobs in the country as a result of the pandemic were women i.e. 55% of the recently unemployed.
For the first and second parts, we were able to find a total of six recent trends that have been observed within the global women entrepreneurship sector and workplace landscape. The bulk of our findings came from the trends that were mentioned across various credible reports by news, financial consultancies & institutions, press release, and global aid organizations such as Forbes, McKinsey, PRNewswire, Mastercard, Visa, the International Financial Corporation, the United Nations, and the World Bank.