Latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Women’s Report finds an estimated 163 million women launching new ventures while 111 million are running established businesses

Page Content 1

Over the past year, 163 million women were starting businesses across 74 economies worldwide—this according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Women’s Report (pdf) released today with sponsors Babson CollegeSmith CollegeKorea Entrepreneurship FoundationTecnológico de MonterreyUniversidad Del Desarrollo, and Universiti Tun Abdul Razak.

“This not only shows the magnitude of impact women entrepreneurs have across the globe, but highlights the contribution they make toward the growth and well-being of their societies,” said Babson College Professor and report co-authorDonna Kelley. “Women entrepreneurs provide incomes for their families, employment for those in their communities, and products and services that bring new value to the world around them."

Among the 63 economies surveyed in both this and the last report, GEM found that Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) among women increased by 10 percent, and the gender gap (ratio of women to men participating in entrepreneurship) narrowed by 5 percent.

These same economies show an 8 percent increase in women’s ownership of established businesses, and a near 10 percent increase in women’s opportunity perceptions across Europe, North America, and Asia.

The 2016/17 GEM Women’s Report also adds a new consideration—that of women as entrepreneurial investors. While participation rates vary, the participation of women as investors suggests a strong resource foundation from which business owners may build.

GEM economies in the 2016/17 survey cover 69 percent of the world’s population and 85 percent of the world’s GDP. In its 18th consecutive year, GEM continues to serve as the largest and most comprehensive single study of entrepreneurship in the world.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Women’s Report:

Entrepreneurial intentions increased among women by 16 percent from 2014 to 2016 across all economies that participated in both this report and the previous one.

Although intentions increased globally, self-perceptions around opportunity and capability vary significantly between development levels.

  • 57 percent of women in factor-driven economies believe there are good opportunities around them for starting a business, while only 39 percent of women in innovation-driven economies hold these same beliefs.
  • 67 percent of women in the factor-driven group believe they have the capabilities to start a new venture. Under 35 percent of women in the innovation-driven group feel the same.
  • On average, women exhibit a 20 percent or greater likelihood of citing necessity as a motive for starting a new business when compared to men. However, opportunity still accounts for the majority of entrepreneurial motives.
    • In the innovation-driven group of economies, women are over three and a half times as likely to cite opportunity versus necessity motives.


Interestingly, GEM found that women entrepreneurs have a 5 percent greater likelihood of innovativeness compared to men. The highest level of innovation occurs in North America, where 38 percent of women report having innovative products and services.

Women in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are more likely than men to state they had exited a business in the past year, and around 56 percent cite either unprofitability or lack of finance as a reason. Discontinuance levels among women are lower than men in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America—this is consistent with lower startup levels compared to men in these regions.

Ten percent of all women entrepreneurs operate their businesses solely and have no intentions to add any employees in the next five years. Europe has the highest frequency of one-person female business activity, while North America has the lowest.

Sub-Saharan Africa maintains the highest regional average TEA rate and strong average growth expectations, which translates into a lot of employment by women entrepreneurs in this region.

The MENA region reports the highest average female growth expectations at 37 percent. Over half of the women entrepreneurs in UAE, Qatar, and Tunisia expect to hire six or more employees in the next five years. Moreover, women in Saudi Arabia and Morocco are more likely than men to have these ambitions.

North America shows the highest education rates among women entrepreneurs, with 84 percent having earned a post-secondary or higher education. Europe is notable for having more highly educated women than men entrepreneurs: 22 percent more, on average.

"Although the gender gap in education and labor force participation decreases at higher stages of economic development, we find that the entrepreneurial gender gap not only persists but increases," says Smith Economics Professor and report co-author, Mahnaz Mahdavi. "By providing entrepreneurial education, colleges and universities can improve women's competencies and increase their rate of business startup to more closely match that of men.”

Women participate in entrepreneurship at equal or higher levels than men in Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico, and Brazil.

About the Report

Seventy-four economies are profiled in this report: 65 that participated in the 2016 GEM cycle, and nine that participated in 2015, but not in 2016. It provides both a broadly global and a comprehensively detailed foundation for guiding future research, policy decision making, and the design of initiatives and programs that can enhance awareness about women entrepreneurship. As such, this report brings a greater understanding of women’s entrepreneurship to a diverse audience of researchers, policy makers, educators, and practitioners. Its ultimate aim is to foster recognition about the value women entrepreneurs bring to society and to bring about improvements in conditions that encourage and support their aspirations.

Report authors include Babson College Professor Donna Kelley; Smith College Assistant Professor Benjamin S. Baumer; Babson College Vice Provost of Global Entrepreneurial Leadership Candida Brush; Babson College ProfessorPatricia Greene; Smith College Professor Mahnaz Madavi; Associate Professor Madhi Majbouri; Assistant Director of Special Projects, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Marcia Cole; Administrative Director of the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center Monica Dean; and Program Director of the Conway Center René Heavlow.

“Smith College’s participation as a report sponsor complements the new Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center’s activities, and reflects the importance of Smith’s involvement in research efforts showcasing the contributions women make globally to entrepreneurial activity,” reported Monica Dean.

Key Findings


Entrepreneurial Activity


Entrepreneur Characteristics


Attitudes and Affiliations




Entrepreneurial Investors

About the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) was initiated in 1999 as a joint venture of Babson College and the London Business School. It has gained widespread recognition as the most authoritative longitudinal study of entrepreneurship in the world and accomplishes this effort through the collaborative work of a consortium of national teams consisting of academic researchers from across the globe. Each national team oversees an annual survey of at least 2,000 working-age adults (ages 18 to 64). Starting with just ten developed economies in 1999, the project has grown to involve more than 100 economies over 18 annual cycles. GEM is unique because, unlike most entrepreneurship data sets that measure newer and smaller firms, GEM studies the behavior of individuals with respect to starting and managing businesses. At a time in history when individual entrepreneurial activity may hold the key to transforming the global economy and discouraging ingrained economic disparity in countries with minimal economic opportunity, GEM data has influenced national economic policies and continues to expand its collaborative role. For more information, follow GEM on Twitter.

About Smith College

Since its founding in 1871, Smith College has educated women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States and the first to offer an accredited engineering program, Smith links the power of the liberal arts to excellence in research and scholarship, developing engaged global citizens and leaders for society’s contemporary challenges. Smith educates women to understand the complexity of human history and the variety of the world’s cultures through engagement with social, political, aesthetic and scientific issues.

About the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at Smith College

Smith College's Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center is an intellectual hub that challenges students, faculty and staff to develop innovative solutions to pressing problems. A catalyst for the acceleration of innovation and entrepreneurial activity at Smith, the Center provides students with tools and experiences to become business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators. Similarly, the Center provides faculty and staff with resources to facilitate innovative and entrepreneurial activity. The Center hosts and facilitates a slate of programs and activities focused on creative thinking, problem solving and interdisciplinary teamwork.

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value. ​​​​​​​​​​​​ 

By Brianna Radicioni, bradicioni@babson.edu, (781) 239-4548 | 09/06/2017 06:00