Who Runs the World? Girls.

Who Runs the World? Girls.

Female entrepreneurs around the globe are doing their part to close the gender gap

I think Beyoncé got it right when she released the hit “Run the World (Girls)” in 2011. While we may not be dominating it yet, we are inching closer every day. Women are gaining traction across the globe, from roles as executives at Fortune 500 companies and heads of state to entrepreneurs of small shops, start-ups, and well-known brands.

During a recent trip to South America, I visited Argentina and Paraguay and spoke with thousands of aspiring female entrepreneurs. While so many nations, such as the U.S. and Australia, are making progress in decreasing the gender gap, Hispanic communities in particular are still struggling. The attendees shared stories of their male-dominated culture, where most are housewives who are dependent upon their husbands for money. I took them through a series of exercises in hopes of helping them understand how much more satisfying it is to be independent, while encouraging them to build their own businesses and make their own money. It was exciting to see them feel so empowered and be enthusiastic about the possibilities!

It also got me thinking about how women entrepreneurs fare in our country and around the globe. Let’s explore some of my findings:

In The United States

Women now make up 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the U.S.—the highest percentage since 1996, according to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity. But don’t celebrate yet. While that number is encouraging, the companies tend to be on the smaller side: Only 3 percent of women-owned firms in the U.S. have "high economic impact," generating $500,000 or more in revenue, according to the 2016 State of Women Owned Businesses report commissioned by American Express OPEN. Sounds like It’s Rising Time to me; time for women to push for bigger and better.

One of the deterrents might be the well-documented difficulty women face when trying to gain access to capital—issues like a lack of collateral, discriminatory regulations, and ingrained gender bias keep them from obtaining even small loans. More and more, foundations encouraging women’s potential are making available the resources that will enable them to start a new business or scale up an existing one.

Take, for instance, Tory Burch, the billionaire CEO and designer who earned a spot on Forbes’ Most Powerful Women in the World list: She founded the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009, which aims to provide women with access to capital, education and digital resources. Her Fellows Program provides 10 women entrepreneurs each year with a community of support as well as $10,000 for business education and the chance to participate in a pitch competition for a $100,000 grant investment in their business. And it’s already making an impact: Two Fellows from its inaugural program have already surpassed the $1 million mark.

It’s exciting to see that there’s a business education component added to the mix, given how important Robert and I think that is. And PS: If you’ve got a budding business, applications are open until November 9th for the Tory Burch Foundation’s 3rd annual Fellows Program. Go for it!

Around the World

When it comes to other nations and gender equality, the results are, literally, all over the map. Here are a few highlights:

  • In India, women comprise about 30 percent of corporate senior management positions, which is notably higher than the global average (24 percent). But in the overall workforce, India is one of the worst countries in the world—113th out of 135—when it comes to the gender gap. And women entrepreneurs constitute only 10 percent of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country.
  • According to MasterCard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs Report 2017, Uganda had the highest percentage of female business owners at 34.8 percent. However, the east African nation scored poorly on the Index of Women Entrepreneurs largely due to poor governance and high barriers to starting a business. But the study did reveal that Uganda has a healthy cultural and social acceptance of female entrepreneurs.
  • Turkey, which ranked No. 11 on Dell’s gender index, has a young population that’s driving its economic growth. And while the labor force participation of women there is just 29.5 percent, they hold 12 percent of chief executive positions—triple the percentage of women running the largest 500 companies in the U.S.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, women represent 41.6 percent of the economically-active population. However, the average rate of entrepreneurial activity among women is just 15 percent, according to a March 2014 study from Multilateral Investment Fund and Ernst & Young. And here’s a shocking statistic: 85 percent of high-growth female entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean have the ambition to grow their business, yet only 56 percent of women consider themselves capable of starting one.

I’m certainly pleased with the progress women are making worldwide to move that needle forward, but there’s still plenty of work to be done to close the gender gap. Most entrepreneurs begin their businesses because they’ve come across a problem in their lives and thought of a solution. She who solves the problem wins—and each time one of you wins, the whole world benefits. Let’s run the world, girls!

Original publish date: October 12, 2017