Report shows women’s participation in entrepreneurship varies around the world, with many opportunities for women to start and sustain businesses in Latin America.

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Latin America has one of the highest concentrations of women entrepreneurs in the world, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2012 Women’s Report (pdf).

This unique study, sponsored by Babson College (USA), Universidad del Desarrollo (Chile) and the University Tun Abdul Razak (Malaysia), provides the most comprehensive insights about the entrepreneurial activity of women worldwide.

The Report shows women’s participation in entrepreneurship varies around the world, with many opportunities for women to start and sustain businesses in Latin America.

With the highest percentage of non-entrepreneurs (65 percent of males and 50 percent of females) that intend to start an entrepreneurial venture within the next three years, Colombia stands out as a Latin American country with high growth potential.

Latin American countries, such as Colombia where 18 percent of women are entrepreneurs, offer an environment for women businesses to thrive.

“Latin America is consistently a leading economy for women entrepreneurs. Women not only participate in business creation at high levels, but also at rates nearly equal to that of men,” said Babson College Professor Donna J. Kelley, the Report’s lead author. “The results reflect positive attitudes among the female population in Latin America, not only in the extent women see opportunities for starting businesses, but also their confidence in their abilities and their relatively low fear of failure. These positive views and entrepreneurial ambitions can inspire women everywhere to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. With high rates of female entrepreneurs, Latin American women are making significant contributions to their societies.”

There were more than 126 million women entrepreneurs starting or running new businesses across 67 economies in 2012, and the Report demonstrates ways to help grow this number in years to come. Women entrepreneurs need more resources and better programs to:

  • build new collaborations to leverage ideas,
  • develop entrepreneurial abilities, attitudes, and aspirations, and
  • access the means necessary to expand their businesses and generate jobs.

“Entrepreneurship is one of the most important drivers of economic growth and societal well-being,” said Babson College President Kerry M. Healey, who will be in Manizales, Colombia September 22-25th to work with members of the nonprofit Fundación Luker.* “If women are not actively engaged as entrepreneurs, the job creation capacity of half the world’s population is lost. Economies, such as those in Latin America that offer environments where female entrepreneurs can thrive and that encourage these women to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit, should be celebrated and replicated worldwide.”

The 2012 GEM Women’s Report examines the rates and nature of female participation in entrepreneurship around the world and contrasts these findings with male rates. It analyzes how many women are participating in entrepreneurship, the types of businesses they are starting or operating, their motives and aspirations for this endeavor, and their attitudes about entrepreneurship.

Full 2012 Global Women’s Report (pdf) »

Among the report’s key findings on women’s entrepreneurship across Latin America:

Entrepreneurial Activity

  • Activity in Ecuador is notably high, with more than one-fourth of the female population engaged in entrepreneurship.
  • GEM took a longitudinal look at five Latin American economies in four two-year intervals (from 2005-2012) and found that Colombia maintained a high level of entrepreneurial activity, while the other four economies (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay) started out with lower levels and then exhibited increases over time. Chile demonstrated the largest jump from nearly the lowest to the highest total entrepreneurial activity rates among women within the five economies.

Collaboration and Independence

  • Latin American female entrepreneurs were found to be highly collaborative. Co-founders were fairly popular among women as 39 percent of Latin American females indicated starting a company with two or more founders.
  • Fifty-two percent of female new business owners and half of established business owners own and operate their businesses without employees in Latin America, reporting the highest percentage of single-person operations among the regions studied. Thirty-eight percent of male business owners in Latin America operate with no employees as well.

Entrepreneurial Perceptions

  • Colombia has the highest percentage of individuals with optimistic views about entrepreneurial opportunities in the environment around them. Seventy percent of females and 73 percent of males see good opportunities for starting businesses.
  • Women and men in Latin America see greater opportunity for entrepreneurship than individuals in other economies; half the population has high opportunity perceptions. In contrast, only 19 percent of females and 21 percent of males in Developing Asia have similar feelings.
  • Second only to individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin American male and female entrepreneurs have the highest capability perceptions. Fifty-six percent of females and 68 percent of males confidently believe they’re capable of starting a business. Not surprisingly, these two regions also have the lowest fear of failure among entrepreneurs.  

The Authors

  • Donna J. Kelley, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship. Frederic C. Hamilton Chair of Free Enterprise, Babson College
  • Candida G. Brush, Chair, Entrepreneurship Division, Director, Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship and Franklin W. Olin Distinguished Professor in Entrepreneurship, Babson College
  • Patricia G. Greene, Paul T. Babson Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies, Babson College
  • Yana Litovsky, Data Team Supervisor, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

About GEM

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a not-for-profit academic research consortium that has as its goal making high quality information on global entrepreneurship activity readily available to as wide an audience as possible. GEM is the largest single study of entrepreneurial activity in the world. Initiated in 1999 with 10 countries, GEM 2012 conducted research in 69 economies all over the world. Follow GEM at @GEMNOW

About Universidad del Desarrollo

Universidad del Desarrollo is known not only for its academic excellence, but also for its entrepreneurial hallmark. This feature has earned it a place of privilege in higher education in Chile and Latin America a mere 20 years since it was founded.
 Entrepreneurship is a characteristic that distinguishes its students and professors. It creates an interactive and dynamic environment on campus where innovation and new ideas are constant. Ethics and public responsibility, the hallmark values of UDD, are encouraged not only in the classroom, but are also put into practice in each of the activities conducted at UDD. Follow the Universidad del Desarrollo at @UDD_cl

About Universiti Tun Abdul Razak

Tun Abdul Razak (UNIRAZAK) was established on 18 December 1997 as one of the first private universities in Malaysia. Since its inception, UNIRAZAK was among the first few private learning institutions in Malaysia to receive the SIRIM certification of ISO 9001:2000. Additionally, the University has been awarded the prestigious Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) status, which is a testament to the University's commitment to integrating technology and innovation in its teaching and learning techniques. UNIRAZAK has rapidly established itself as a premier centre for education in its efforts to produce competitive and capable graduates. Follow Universiti Tun Abdul Razak at @myunirazak

About Babson College

Babson GEM Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds™. The College is a dynamic living and learning laboratory, where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society -- while at the same time evolving our methods and advancing our programs. We shape the 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 create economic and social value. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value. Learn more at www.babson.edu

By Hilary Katulak, hkatulak@babson.edu, 781-239-4623 | 09/23/2013 06:00