Fostering Gender Equality -
Meeting the Entrepreneurship
and Microfinance Challenge
Microfinance, gender and entrepreneurship - definitions
Microfinance means offering financially excluded people and microentrepreneurs basic financial
services like credit, savings and insurance. Such services are provided by specialised institutions that
can be classified as banks (cooperative, commercial, microfinance or savings banks) and non-banks
(financial cooperatives, non-profit companies and NGOs). Microfinance providers can also be
categorised by the different target groups they reach: bankable clients (traditional start-ups and
established microenterprises) and non-bankable clients (financially excluded, low-income people). As
far as credit is concerned, the loan amounts are typically very small. However, within the context of the
EU they can reach up to €25,000 depending on the target group and type of activities.
(MFC/EMN/cdfa, From exclusion to inclusion through microfinance, 2007)
Gender, Gender Equality, Gender Mainstreaming
Gender is a concept that allows one to distinguish between sex, which is a biological condition, and
gender, the characteristics, attributes and roles assigned by society to girls and boys, men and
women. These characteristics and roles are learned through both formal and informal education and
through messages presented through traditions, celebrations, religion and the media. Roles and
attributes associated with men and women differ from one society to another and evolve over time.
Gender Equality refers to a belief in the basic equal rights and opportunities for members of both
sexes within legal, social or corporate establishments. Making the concerns and experiences of
women as well as men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of
policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres is called Gender
Mainstreaming. (adapted from Reeves, H./Baden, S, 2000, and UN Economic Social Council, 1997)
The word entrepreneur originates from the French word “entreprendre” which means "to undertake."
Entrepreneurship can be described as a behaviour that includes creativity and innovation, the
readiness to take risk, the motivation to identify an opportunity and to pursue it as well as the capacity
to realise it. Entrepreneurship produces new value, provides a positive contribution to economic
growth and can contribute to fostering social and economic cohesion. The degree of entrepreneurship
reflects a country’s framework conditions, cultural attitudes and government programmes (OECD,
2001; EU Green Paper, 2003). Although progress has been made, female entrepreneurs are clearly
underrepresented in Europe. In most European countries, they represent less than a third of all
persons involved in entrepreneurial activity.
Microfinance, gender and entrepreneurship - definitions........................................................................................2
Gender, Gender Equality, Gender Mainstreaming...........................................................................................2
1 Project Background................................................................................................................................................3
2 Project Members....................................................................................................................................................3
3 Scorecard Methodology.........................................................................................................................................5
4 Scorecard Results...................................................................................................................................................5
4.1 General National Context for Entrepreneurship..............................................................................................6
4.2 Gender Equality in Society.............................................................................................................................6
4.3 Gender equality in labour market inclusion and welfare-bridge into self-employment..................................7
4.4 Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment .........................................................................8
4.5 Gender Equality in Support Structures for Entrepreneurship.........................................................................8
4.6 Gender Equality in Access to Finance ............................................................................................................9
5.1 Recommendations for Policy makers............................................................................................................10
5.2 Recommendations for Practitioners..............................................................................................................11
5.3 Recommendations for Finance and Funding Providers.................................................................................11
5.4 Recommendations for Researchers...............................................................................................................12
6 Country studies.....................................................................................................................................................13
1 Project Background
The number of women who are self-employed in Europe is much smaller than that of men and the
number of women entrepreneurs with employees is smaller still. Microcredit has proven across the
globe to be an effective tool for engaging and assisting women to take their first steps into self-
employment. The large majority (87.4%) of women entrepreneurs across Europe have
microenterprises (Eurochambers, 2004). However, in Europe microfinance providers are not reaching
proportionally as many women as in other parts of the world.
The present working paper has been published for the Transnational Conference on “Fostering
Gender Equality: Meeting the Entrepreneurship and Microfinance Challenge” on the 13th and 14th
of December in Madrid, Spain, organised jointly by the European Microfinance Network and Women’s
World Banking Spain. It presents the preliminary results of an extensive comparative study conducted
by EMN in cooperation with nine of its members in eight European countries: Belgium, France,
Germany, Hungary, Norway, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom. It is part of a 15-month EU funded
project with the same title aimed at promoting female entrepreneurship in Europe. Beside the eight
country studies and a global comparative report, the project includes a range of different activities
such as the implementation and evaluation of pilot projects, the exchange of experience through so-
called exchange visits, the production of a video film and the setting-up of a gender webpage on the
EMN website (http://www.european-microfinance.org/gender_equality_en.php).
The primary purpose of the comparative study is to give an in-depth analysis of the entrepreneurial
environment for women in the eight European countries cited above. This is rounded off with
background information about policy and programmes regarding female entepreneurship and self-
employment at the EU level. The secondary purpose of the study is to incite discussion and encourage
action with respect to the promotion of female entrepreneurship in Europe. The cross-country
comparison aims to enable policy makers, funding providers, practitioners and researchers to identify
strengths and weaknesses as well as good practices that can be adopted from other countries in order
to promote gender equality in entrepreneurship and microfinance in their own countries.
2 Project Members
• Women’s World Banking WWB Spain has provided personal and individual assistance to women
entrepreneurs since 1989. WWB has helped women to obtain over 800 loans (21.2 million euro)
through agreements with banks and has published several handbooks for female entrepreneurs.
• WEETU, UK, launched the first microcredit peer-lending programme for women in the UK in 1998
and since that date has supported hundreds of women to start up in business. The Full Circle
programme is viewed nationally as a centre of excellence and a model of good practice.
• The Enterprise Fund Ltd (TEF) is one of the UK’s leading enterprise-specific microfinance
organisations. More than 75% of its loans are made to businesses located in the UK’s most
deprived communities and 31% of loans are made to women.
• The Fonds de Participation in Belgium is a public federal financial institution fostering
entrepreneurial spirit. It participated as an external advisor in two European projects in Belgium
called “Diane1” and “Women 2FP6”.
• The Réseau Financement Alternatif in Belgium promotes ethical finance. It has gained expertise in
identification of best practice and evaluation of tangible problems and solutions of multiple
• In Slovakia, Integra has already ten years of experience in supporting the creation and
development of microenterprises by women, with similar experience in Romania, Bulgaria, Russia
• In Germany, EVERS & JUNG combines research and consulting in financial services and
participates in different national and European microfinance and business support networks, all
targeting different topics of entrepreneurship.
• In Hungary the OVK / Hungarian Microfinance Network (HMN) has provided SMEs including those
led or owned by women with a wide range of financial and non-financial economic and SME
development tools for more than ten years through its member organisations.
• In Norway, NCN and the foundation Microinvest have been actively involved in the network for
women entrepreneurs for the last two years. Since its inception in 2003 more than 50% of its
microloans have been given to women entrepreneurs, mainly immigrant women.
• The European Microfinance Network, EMN, has 57 member organisations from 21 European
countries in November 2007. Created in 2003, its mission is to promote microfinance as a tool to
foster self-employment and microenterprises for socially excluded people in Europe. EMN has led
a range of transnational EU funded projects with its members. In 2005 EMN conducted a survey
on women’s access to microlending programmes.
3 Scorecard Methodology
The research methodology of the study is based on a multidimensional Scorecard tool that was
originally developed by FACET B.V., EVERS & JUNG and nef1. The main benefits of this Scorecard
- The combination of a sophisticated analysis of national environments for gender equality in
entrepreneurship with the production of clear and easy to read outputs
- The build-up of a transparent basis for comparison between different national situations
- The possibility to identify national strengths and weaknesses as a starting point for policy
recommendations based on mutual learning
For each country, a research team assessed the environment for women entrepreneurs against key
factors affecting female entrepreneurship. Those factors were grouped into the following six
dimensions: General National Context for Entrepreneurship; Gender Equality in Society; Gender
Equality in Labour Market Inclusion; Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship; Gender Equaltiy in Support
Structures for Entrepreneurship; and Gender Equality in Access to Finance.
Each dimension is divided into sub-dimensions with respective indicators. The indicators are coupled
to a scoring in order to rate the application of gender equality in a country. Five was the highest and
one the lowest achievable scoring. The results for each country were scored, calibrated and presented
in a radar diagram.
4 Scorecard Results
The results of the Scorecard seem valid for a first analysis of the strength and weaknesses of the
policy environments for gender equality in entrepreneurship and microfinance in the surveyed
countries. Due to restricted data availability and the pilot character of the project the results should not
be understood as a resilient benchmarking of national environments and government policies for
gender equality in entrepreneurship and microfinance. The following graph represents the main
outcome of the study.
General national context for
Gender equality in access to 3
Gender equality in society
Gender equality in support Gender equality in labour
structures for entrepreneurship market inclusion
Gender equality in
Germ any Spain France UK Hungary Norw ay Belgium Slovakia
FACET BV, Evers & Jung, nef (2005): Policy measures to promote the use of micro-credit for social inclusion:
Study conducted on behalf of the European Commission DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities,
4.1 General National Context for Entrepreneurship
B ES F G The General National Context for Entrepreneurship
HUN N SR UK
Total 3.1 3.0 2.8 2.7 2.5 2.9 2.5 3.4
varies from the other five dimensions, as there is no
Entrepreneurial explicit focus on gender aspects but rather on the
opportunities 2.3 2.3 3.5 2.8 2.8 3.5 2.3 3.7 general framework for entrepreneurship. The scores
Entrepreneurial are based upon an assessment of entrepreneurial
abilities 4.3 3.3 2.5 3.3 2.3 2.0 3.0 3.3 opportunities, entrepreneurial abilities, enterprise
culture 3.0 3.0 2.3 1.5 1.0 3.7 1.5 3.3 culture, policy incentives for entrepreneurship,
welfare bridges and access to finance.
Policy incentives 3.6 2.6 2.6 3.0 2.0 3.6 2.5 3.6 Good environments for entrepreneurial
Welfare bridge 2.3 3.4 3.0 3.2 3.5 2.3 2.8 3.5 opportunities, consisting of a relatively stable
Access to macroeconomic situation, comparatively lean start-
finance 3.5 3.5 2.8 2.5 3.4 2.5 2.7 2.9 up administration and markets that are open for new
entrepreneurs to seize opportunities for start-up and business, were identified in the UK, Norway and
France. Policy incentives for entrepreneurship can be set by the national tax system, the
bankruptcy regulation, the administrational burdens for running a business and the regulations for
hiring and firing employees. In general, the surveyed countries scored best on their bankruptcy
regulation, with Belgium and Norway featuring the most generous solutions.
The public support of entrepreneurial abilities was assessed regarding entrepreneurial education
and public support structures for entrepreneurship at a national and a local/regional level. In Belgium,
the national experts asked rated both the entrepreneurial education as well as the public support
structure as being of good to high quality. In contrast, in Germany the public support structure for
enterprise development is highly developed, but there is a low level of systematic entrepreneurial
education that reduces the overall score. The entrepreneurial culture in the surveyed countries is
characterised by a high impact of risk avoidance on the decision to start a business, and a lacking
diffusion of entrepreneurial norms and values in the societies. Entrepreneurial attitude is not seen as a
suitable issue for primary education in the majority of the surveyed countries. The highest scores were
given to Norway, where risk avoidance impact is one of the lowest in Europe and the UK where
entrepreneurial norms and values are deeper rooted in the society than in other countries.
Welfare bridges into self-employment through the provision of income support exist in seven of the
eight countries. Only Belgium does not feature such a scheme. However, the inclusiveness of these
welfare bridges is limited. They are only available for some groups of welfare recipients, mostly those
registered unemployed with short duration of unemployment. While more accessible non-financial
support measures are widely available, the share of unemployed people becoming self-employed lies
below the 10% threshold in all eight countries, with Germany and Spain featuring the highest rates.
Access to finance was rated with regard to the access of SMEs to bank loans, public loans and
microfinance2. For Spain the available data indicated the easiest access to finance for SMEs, while in
Germany and Norway the situation seems to be the most difficult. In general, access to finance for
SMEs is only average in the surveyed countries. Either entrepreneurs report difficulties in accessing
the banking sector (Germany, Hungary) or they are only making limited use of soft loans and public
support (UK, Slovakia). Microfinance sectors are most developed in France, Spain and Hungary, at
least in terms of the numbers of providers and of loans provided per 100,000 inhabitants.
4.2 Gender Equality in Society
B ES F G “Gender Equality in Society” covered political and
HUN N SR UK
Total 3.8 3.6 2.7 3.3
societal gender empowerment based upon an
3.1 4.0 2.9 3.8
Gender equality as assessment of gender equality as a policy issue
policy issue 3.7
4.2 2.3 3.0 2.7 4.0 2.3 4.0 and socio-economic gender equality in society.
Socio-economic The treatment of gender equality as policy issue
gender equality in
3.0 3.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 3.5 3.5
was rated on the basis of expert interviews that
assessed the position of gender equality on
national and regional policy agendas, the initiation of active policy measures with quantitative goals
and if gender equality issues are included in local development strategies.
The scores achieved are comparatively high, indicating that gender equality receives considerable
attention from policy-makers in the eight countries. Long-term strategies featuring active measures
with quantitative goals are nevertheless the exception. Most of the activity is subject to political trends
and more symbolic than substantive in nature. Sustainable political activity can be observed in Spain,
the UK and Norway on both a national/regional as well as a local level. France and Slovakia received
the lowest scores, because of the missing link to local development (France) and lacking sustainability
of policy measures (Slovakia).
Due to a change in the weighting of the indicators measuring the access to microfinance the scores displayed
here differ slightly (+/-0.1) from the scores that are featured in the national reports (see annex).
Indicators like the gender gaps in the share of the population being exposed to the risk-of poverty and
the general amount of gender empowerment helped to assess the socio-economic gender equality
in the society. The welfare systems seem to be apt to mitigate most of the higher socio-economic
risks women still face in European countries in relation to men. Nevertheless gender gaps in risk of
poverty after social transfers still exist in most of the surveyed countries. The only countries without a
gender gap are Slovakia and Hungary where the risk of poverty exists on a high level but is shared
relatively equally between the genders. Annually, the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) of the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assesses and combines different aspects of gender
empowerment in a society. The surveyed countries scored relatively well on this indicator, with only
Slovakia and Hungary falling behind. France was not fully included in the UNDP ranking; however, the
reconstruction of the measure from other sources revealed an average value for France. Norway
received the highest GEM score leading the 2006 UNDP ranking.
4.3 Gender equality in labour market inclusion and welfare-bridge into self-
B ES F G HUN N SR UK Aspects of the general integration of women
Total 3.4 2.2 3.3 2.3 2.7 3.3 2.0 3.0 into the labour market have been assessed
Gender equality in including gender equality in participation in
participation in the labour the labour market, the social infrastructure for
market 3.0 1.7 2.7 2.0 3.3 3.3 2.0 3.0 gender equality in labour market inclusion
Social infrastructure for
and gender equality in welfare bridges from
gender equality in labour unemployment and inactivity into self-
market inclusion 3.3 2.5 3.7 1.6 1.3 3.7 2.0 3.0 employment.
Gender equality in welfare The level of gender equality in labour
bridge 4.0 2.3 3.7 3.3 3.3 3.0 2.0 3.0
market participation is not very high in the
surveyed countries. The scores were based on the ratio of female vs. male economic activity rate,
gender equality in income and gender equality in atypical work. Norway and Hungary received the
highest scores, Spain, Germany and Slovakia the lowest. A female employment rate that meets the
Lisbon goal of 60 per cent is realized only in Norway, the UK and Germany. The smallest gender gap 3
was observed in Norway (87%), while the biggest gap was found in Spain (65%). Gender pay gaps
remain persistent in Europe. Belgium, the country that featured the lowest pay gap4, still exposed a
difference of 7 per cent of the average hourly wage in 20055. The highest pay gaps were found in
Germany and Slovakia with up to 24 per cent difference in hourly wages. To rate gender equality in
atypical work, the study compared the difference between men and women regarding the share of
involuntary part-time employment. Here, the picture is pretty gloomy, with only the UK and Hungary
receiving average scores (about two times more involuntary part-time work by women). In Spain
nearly six times more women than men work part-time involuntarily.
In general, the social infrastructure for female economic activity is not well developed in the
surveyed countries. Since women are still the main bearer of family duties, this sub-dimension
concentrated on the provision of childcare facilities for the under threes, the impact of parenthood on
employment rates, and the level of adequate social infrastructure for gender equality in economic
activity. The public provision of childcare in particular is inadequate for a decent reconciliation of family
and work for women. With the exception of Belgium and Norway the EU-goal of a 30 % coverage for
the under threes has not been reached.
In Norway and France, childcare and maternal leave regulations give women the best environment for
staying economically active while building a family. Germany and Hungary received the lowest scores
due to missing childcare facilities and high gender gaps in the impact of parenthood on employment.
Gender equality in welfare bridges into self-employment was rated by looking at the gender equality
in the receipt of unemployment benefits, in the movement into self-employment and the gender
neutrality of the design of the income support schemes. Income support schemes are in place in most
of the surveyed countries, helping unemployed people to become and stay self-employed. But, it is not
clear if these schemes address the specific needs of women and men. None of the surveyed income
support schemes can be called gender unequal by design. However, their focus on registered
unemployed makes them less accessible to women than to men, since women receive unemployment
benefits less often than men and receive lower sums of unemployment benefits due to persistent
gender pay gaps. The highest gender gap can be found in Germany and the UK, where women are
clearly underrepresented in the group of registered unemployment benefit recipients for all durations of
unemployment. In Hungary and Belgium, women are equally represented or even overrepresented.
Additionally, various data indicated that self-employment out of economic inactivity is a lot more
Measured as the female economic activity rate as per cent of the male rate
Measured as the difference between average gross hourly earnings of male paid employees and of female paid
employees as a percentage of average gross hourly earnings of male paid employees
Belgian data on the pay gap varies between 7% for a population of all paid employees between 16 and 64 years
who work at least 15 hours per week and 15% for fulltime employees in the industry and services.
widespread for women than for men. Support schemes for these kinds of start-up projects do not exist
in any of the countries.
4.4 Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment
B ES F G HUN N SR The
UK dimension “Gender equality in
Total 1.8 3.5 2.7 2.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 3.0 entrepreneurship” covered gender equality in
Gender equality in self-employment, entrepreneurial characteristics
self-employment 2.0 3.0 2.7 2.7 3.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 and entrepreneurial culture to give a more
Gender equality in complete picture of the entrepreneurial activity of
characteristics 1.5 4.0 3.0 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.0 4.0 women and men than simply comparing their
Gender equality in rates of self-employment.
entrepreneurial Gender equality in self-employment was rated
culture 2.0 3.5 2.5 2.2 3.5 3.0 2.0 3.0 based on the gender equality in the rates of self-
employment and the gender proportions in the GEM-measures Early Entrepreneurial Activity and
Established Business Ownership6. Scores are relatively low for all the countries surveyed, because
self-employment and entrepreneurial activity is still dominated by men in all countries. Hungary and
Spain scored best with a score of 3.0 out of 5. The lowest scores were given to Norway, the UK and
Belgium. Norway featured the highest gender gap in self-employment as a per cent of total
employment and high gaps in the GEM measures. The UK features a higher gender gap in self-
employment than the EU-25 average, too. Belgium on the other hand showed a very conflicting
picture. It features a fairly moderate gender gap in the share of self-employed persons but very
unfavourable gender relations in the GEM-measures.
Gender equality in entrepreneurial characteristics looked at the entrepreneurial motivation,
expressed in the ratio of opportunity vs. necessary entrepreneurial activity and at gender equality in
the size of the entrepreneurial projects, expressed in the share of solo-entrepreneurs in the service
In general, the countries featured a moderate gender gap in the ratio of opportunity to necessity
entrepreneurship. In France, the ratio is even better for women (2:1) than for men (1.5:1). In Belgium
and Norway, the ratios for men are more than twice as high as those for women. Regarding the share
of solo-entrepreneurs in the service sector, high gender gaps could be found in most of the countries.
Gaps of more than ten per cent can be observed in Belgium, Hungary, Germany and especially in
France. The lowest gap exists in Norway where the solo-entrepreneur share for women is only 2.9%
higher than that for men.
Standardized expert interviews were conducted on the media representation of female entrepreneurs
and the acceptance of female entrepreneurship in the society to rate how much the entrepreneurial
culture is characterized by gender equality. In general, the visible entrepreneurial role models are still
male dominated in the surveyed countries. Media representation of female entrepreneurship was
reported to be very low, with Spain and Hungary being the only exceptions. The acceptance of female
entrepreneurship is only average in most countries, indicating that while being self-employed is
increasingly viewed as a possible career option for women, the operating of a business remains an
activity mainly connected with men.
4.5 Gender Equality in Support Structures for Entrepreneurship
B ES F G HUN N SR UKThis dimension assesses whether
Total 3.3 2.9 2.2 2.8 2.6 3.1 2.8 3.0
entrepreneurship promotion activities
Entrepreneurship promotion and local support measures aim for
activities aim for gender gender equality in entrepreneurship and
equality in entrepreneurship 3.3 3.0 2.0 2.9 2.5 3.3 3.0 3.3 how adequate they are for bettering the
Local support measures aim for situation in a country.
gender equality in
entrepreneurship 3.3 2.8 2.3 2.6 2.7 3.0 2.7 2.7 Entrepreneurship promotion
activities are aimed at gender equality
in entrepreneurship if the existent entrepreneurship promotion activities are designed to address the
specific needs of both male and female entrepreneurs. Additionally, the amount of research on gender
aspects of entrepreneurship, its impact on policy and practice and the availability of gender-
disaggregated statistics on entrepreneurial issues was assessed and rated. In general, the scores
given were only average with no country revealing an especially favourable situation. Gender
mainstreaming in promotional activities seems to be seldom realised and if so, only in patchy form,
with isolated activities specifically targeted at women. Norway received the best score in this category.
Research activities on gender and entrepreneurship are more widespread, with Belgium receiving the
Early Entrepreneurship Activity comprises those persons actively involved in starting up a business or running a
business not older than 42 months, while Established Business Ownership means running a business for at least
42 months. These two measures taken together form the Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA), the central measure
for entrepreneurship in the GEM reports.
highest score, but its impact on policy and practice is still unproven in most countries, including
To assess the gender equality of local support measures for entrepreneurship, national experts
were asked to rate the amount to which business support measures are designed to consider the
specific needs of women and men. Additionally, the number of specific support measures targeted at
women and the number of local networking activities for female entrepreneurs was surveyed and
rated. In general, the design of the majority of local support measures for entrepreneurship seems
unsuitable to meet the specific needs of women and men. On the other hand, specific measures to
support female entrepreneurship exist in adequate numbers in most countries. They are mainly
concerned with networking and information providing, but also include specific business development
services (BDS) and incubator services for female entrepreneurs. The highest score was given to
Belgium where gender mainstreaming is as underdeveloped as in the other countries but the number
of local networking initiatives by female entrepreneurs is higher. France received the lowest score due
to the widespread “gender neutral” approach of support measures and weak developed networking
structures on the local level.
4.6 Gender Equality in Access to Finance
B ES F G HUN N SR UK Looking at personal financial resources used to
Total 3.6 2.1 3.7 2.4 2.2 1.8 1.6 3.5
start a business, access to external finance and
access to microcredit assessed the degree of
Financial Resources 2.0 1.0 4.0 2.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 3.5 gender equality in access to finance for
External Finance 4.0 1.0 3.0 3.0 1.0 2.0 1.0 4.0 entrepreneurship. The assessment of the gender
Access to gaps in the access to and use of sources of
Microfinance 4.7 4.3 4.0 2.3 4.7 2.3 2.7 3.0 finance was done in relation to the share of
women in the self-employed population.
Gender equality in the need of external finance was assessed by considering gender gaps that exist
in the availability of personal funds when starting a business and the level of overall capital needs at
start-up. Important to note is that the perceived need for external finance may vary from the difference
of total start-up capital and personal resources. Data availability for these indicators was restricted in
some countries, due to missing statistics on the issue of start-up finance in gender-disaggregated
form. Therefore no general picture for all eight countries could be deduced. Countries, where gender
disaggregated data was found include Germany, France, Belgium and the UK. In general, female
entrepreneurs have fewer personal financial resources available at start-up than men but also lower
start-up budgets. In France, the gender gap in the availability of own financial resources at start-up is
relatively small. This seems to be connected to the small pay gap, although this does not hold true for
the high number of female entrepreneurs starting out of economic inactivity. Germany, in contrast,
features a higher gender gap in the availability of personal funding than in star-up budgets, indicating a
potentially greater funding gap for women compared to men. But similar to the situation in the UK,
female entrepreneurs seem not to demand external finance in the amount that the data on their
available personal resources and start-up budgets would suggest.
Another focus was on gender equality in the access to external finance for enterprises provided by
banks and public loan schemes. The share of women in bank loan clientele and main public loan
schemes was compared to their share in total entrepreneurship.
The access of female entrepreneurs to bank loans proved to be an especially difficult aspect to
assess, since banks in all surveyed countries did not provide data about the gender of their business
clients. Only anecdotal evidence about the problems of female entrepreneurs in receiving bank
financing was available. These give the impression that female entrepreneurs face access barriers in
all surveyed countries due to the male dominated approach of most bank officials regarding “credible
entrepreneurship” and the small loan sums requested by women. For public loan schemes, data
availability was better. The results showed a lower representation of female entrepreneurs in most
countries with only Belgium and the UK featuring higher shares of women in their mainstream public
loan schemes. Norway scored lowest, due to gender gaps of more than 10% in the majority of the
surveyed loan schemes.
The results show that women tend to start their business with fewer financial resources than men do. It
is unclear whether this situation is the result of unequal access to finance or lower ambitions on the
part of women. Probably both factors are playing a role. Low financing requests often falls below the
rationality-cost threshold of banks and the loan scales provided by public loan schemes. Therefore
women have to be seen as a main target group for microfinance. For fostering gender equality in
access to finance and entrepreneurship, the study assessed how well developed the access to
microfinance for female entrepreneurs is in the surveyed countries. A high share of female clients in
This measure is imperfect, because it builds in an “acceptance” of the significant gap between male and female
start-ups and business ownership. In using this comparative measure, the report does not intend to condone the
basic gender gap between women and men in entrepreneurship. However, it was not possible to find a better
measure for assessing the financing gap. Therefore, the scores must be interpreted bearing this in mind.
total loans, a high number of loans disbursed to women and the existence of specific microloan
providers targeting female entrepreneurs received a favourable rating.
In general, microfinance providers in the surveyed countries seem to reach women better than other
providers of external finance. But there are still differences in the level of access women seem to have
to microfinance. In Belgium and Spain the share of women in the group of microcredit clients exceeds
that of women in total entrepreneurship, showing that the active providers in those countries are
targeting women in an effective way. The highest number of microloans disbursed to women per
100,000 female self-employed can be found in Hungary (19.2) and France (18.6). Specialised
providers focussing on female entrepreneurs exist in all countries with different degrees of activity and
outreach. UK and Spain featured the most active institutions of this type.
5.1 Recommendations for Policy makers
1. Build supportive policy frameworks for inclusive entrepreneurship and viable
microenterprises. Since female entrepreneurs are overrepresented in the group of small
business owners, they would especially benefit from such environments on European,
national and local levels.
• The support of small enterprises and their creation should be treated as a cornerstone of the
Lisbon Agenda for Growth and Jobs in order to exploit the full entrepreneurial potential of
Europe’s multifaceted societies.
• A national environment that promotes microenterprises includes simplified business
regulation, income bridges out of unemployment/inactivity and access to small-scale finance.
A stronger microfinance sector is an important building block in such an environment.
• More than 700 EQUAL partnerships focussing on entrepreneurship have produced a huge
reservoir of ideas on how to foster and promote inclusive entrepreneurship and support small
business creation in local economies. They should be further developed into applicable policy
measures at European, national and local levels.
2. Extend and develop the many existing initiatives for women’s entrepreneurship into full-
fledged national strategies for women’s enterprise.
• Such strategies should combine individual pronouncements, individual targets and
agreements. Measures need visibility, clear financing and coherence across all regions of a
• To develop such a national strategy, programmes and organisations undertaking gender
equality or women’s enterprise support activities should be brought together. Lessons learned
and good practices should be integrated into the strategy for nation-wide implementation.
• A national strategy should have specific, measurable and time-bound goals and targets to
monitor implementation, impact and to ensure accountability.
A good example of such a powerful national strategy is the creation of the Women’s Enterprise
Taskforce in the UK. (Link: http://www.womensenterprise.co.uk)
3. Initiate an active networking policy throughout your country that helps to bring more
women into self-employment and stabilise newly created female led enterprises
• Since contact to other female entrepreneurs is known to have a considerable impact on the
entrepreneurial activity of women there is a need to foster more and lasting local networks
between potential and established female entrepreneurs.
• To strengthen the impact of such local networking measures it is recommended to improve
their visibility through regional/national awards, contests and/or conferences.
• To support the further development of gender equality in entrepreneurship it is also important
to stimulate networking and information exchange between business support organisations
targeting women, research facilities and other relevant actors in the field of female
A good example for a national policy measure that fosters different networking activities on the
national, regional and local level is the establishment of the Bundesgründerinnenagentur (bga) in
Germany. (Link: http://www.gruenderinnenagentur.de)
5.2 Recommendations for Practitioners
1. Take account of the specific situations of women and men and the barriers they face
• Practitioners need to take into account the specific needs of gender. They should adopt a
gender aware approach to enterprise support including a strategic vision with specific
objectives and targets.
• Taking into account gender-based differences affects the ability to successfully start and grow
a business. Practitioners should take account of the difference between a gender-aware and a
• Partnerships with organisations specialised in gender issues and the implementation of quality
standards can improve the consideration of gender needs.
In Slovakia, the Integra Foundation offers a broad range of business support services that are
tailor-made to the specific needs of female entrepreneurs. In the UK Prowess, the women’s
enterprise support network aims at engendering business support structures throughout the
country. (Links: http://www.integra.sk; http://www.prowess.org.uk)
2. Establish locally available networking opportunities for women business owners
• The prevailing majority of women’s businesses are microenterprises with a local focus.
• Networks serve several purposes, such as mentoring, provision of role models, technical
assistance and training. Lobbying activities can also be coordinated via networks.
Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) is a networking organisation in the UK targeted at female
entrepreneurs running business in rural areas that currently has over 70 local networks. (Link:
3. Foster the exposure of female entrepreneurs in the media
• People look up to role models, but little attention is given to female entrepreneurs in the
media. The influence of media on female entrepreneurship should be further explored.
• Ensure that the presentation of female entrepreneurs in the media gives a correct and
complete picture of women’s businesses.
The German magazine “Existenzielle” is the only national magazine for female entrepreneurs. It
reports on women who manage small or big enterprises. (Link: http://www.existenzielle.de)
5.3 Recommendations for Finance and Funding Providers
1. Be aware of the specific needs of female entrepreneurs
• (Public) schemes need to care more about women-dominated industries. They should take
into account the differences in businesses started by women such as smaller business size,
different credit needs, lack of assets/guarantees, and higher need for working capital. Loan
assessment criteria used by banks are often unfavourable to women.
• Providing adequate access to finance for female entrepreneurs is a cornerstone in increasing
the share of women in viable entrepreneurship.
• One possibility would be the promotion of programmes directed towards female entrepreneurs
such as specialised financial support networks.
The French network Femmes Business Angels (FBA) was established in 2003 with the mission
to add female values to the image of business angels.
2. Adopt a strategy with respect to women’s entrepreneurship
• Microcredit providers should integrate an understanding of gender differences in their daily
work. This can be done with loan products tailored to women’s needs and the employment of
specialised (female) staff in the loan provision department and management.
WEETU is an enterprise, employment and training support service for women in the UK. It has
been running its peer lending finance scheme, Full Circle, successfully since 1998 and now sells
on a toolkit for other providers to start up their own peer-lending circles. (Link:
3. Ensure transparency in statistics
• Gender-specific data has to be made available systematically for banks, public loan schemes
and microfinance providers.
• The revealed lack of gender aggregated data on loan provision by finance and funding
providers makes it impossible to give an adequate picture of the respective financial markets.
5.4 Recommendations for Researchers
1. Increase research on the profiles of women entrepreneurs and of their companies
• Research will help to better assess the situation of women entrepreneurs and to draw
conclusion for future policy measures.
• Deeper insights are needed to answer essential questions such as why do or do not women
start and develop a business, and if women start a business with fewer financial resources
due to lacking financial resources or due to lower financing needs.
In 2006, the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men asked the non-profit institution Sophia
vzw to develop a database on gender studies in Belgium. It is meant to give more visibility to
gender and women’s studies in Belgium and to develop an inventory on the part of education and
research into gender. (Link: http://www.iefh.fgov.be)
2. Improve availability of comparable and gender disaggregated data on entrepreneurship
• Gender disaggregated data should be present on a transversal basis throughout the EU.
• This will increase knowledge about different values, roles, situations, conditions, aspirations
and needs of men and women, their manifestation and interaction.
3. Develop a systematic research strategy
• A systematic research strategy is needed to gain political impact.
• The implementation of a European agency could serve as a hub in fostering such a strategy.
In the UK, the Women’s Equality Unit (WEU) of the department for Business Enterprise and
Regulatory Reform (BERR) works in key areas supporting gender equality such as the evaluation
of the impact of policies and the contribution to the redesign/development of new policies and
measures to improve gender equality (http://www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk).
6 Country studies
General national context High Ranks
for entrepreneurship Belgium
Belgium receives an average score of Gender equality in 3 Gender equality in
3.2. The dimension Gender equality in access to finance 2 society
society receives the highest score of all 1
dimensions. The dimension Gender 0
equality in entrepreneurship and self- Gender equality in
Gender equality in
employment scores the lowest. support structures for
labour market inclusion
Gender equality in
National Scorecard Results for Belgium vs. high ranks
General national context for entrepreneurship SCORE: 3.1
The general Belgian entrepreneurial context has shown a positive evolution during these past years.
On February 10th, 1998, the programme law for the improvement of independent entrepreneurship
came into effect. In addition, a number of Royal Decrees were adopted for the realisation of this law.
Yearly organised starters days, where future entrepreneurs can find all the information they need and
where they can talk to specialists, were launched. More recently, the rules concerning the
administrative formalities for starting an independent activity were made more flexible. Where financial
means are concerned, a large number of Belgians do not find access to bank investment credits all
that easy, which is mainly due to the cumbersome administration and the necessary data. However,
even when a bank loan is denied, there are other institutions and means that can be relied upon, such
as guarantees and microfinance. Still, Belgians do not spontaneously embrace the concept of
independent entrepreneurship. This is caused by different factors, including the Belgian mentality
towards independent entrepreneurship, fiscal pressure and the large differences between the status of
the employees and independent entrepreurs in spite of the improvements that were already
introduced. Also, the fact that unemployed candidates who want to start an independent activity lose
their allowance at once does not enhance the attractiveness of entrepreneurship.
Gender equality in society SCORE: 3.8
The social and cultural context in Belgium guarantees gender equality through the constitution. In
2002, the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men was founded to fight discrimination and gender-
based inequality. In addition, since 2007 every political decision must take into account the equal
treatment of men and women, in other words gender mainstreaming at all decision-making levels. At
all decision-making levels, the equality of men and women is taken into consideration.
Gender equality in labour market inclusion and welfare bridges to self-employment
Yet when we have a closer look at the equality of men and women on the labour market, we find that
the salaries for men and women are not equal in Belgium nor is labour participation divided equally;
Belgium has fewer female employees then male employees. In addition, more women work part-time.
When they have a child, fewer women choose to go out to work whereas a child seems to stimulate
men to work more. Possibly, that is partly due to a lack of childcare facilities. Recently, several
measures were taken to expand the services. Recently, however, more children have been born which
partially undoes these efforts. Also for female entrepreneurs, insufficient childcare possibilities seem to
be an important obstacle.
Gender equality in entrepreneurship and self-employment SCORE: 1.8
Where the participation in independent entrepreneurship is concerned, fewer women seem to opt for
an independent career than men. Still, life as an independent entrepreneur has become a socially
accepted career choice for women. Yet women are less encouraged and the media pays less attention
to female entrepreneurs than to their male counterparts. Women account for 30% of the Belgian
entrepreneurial population; compared with men, Belgium has fewer starting female entrepreneurs as
well as established entrepreneurs. Their motives are largely the same as men’s. Women, however,
find it more important to be able to organise their own work. Men and women mainly start a business
by seizing an opportunity although women are presented with an opportunity less often than men.
More women start a business out of necessity. When running a business, this business is usually
smaller than that of the men and generates less income.
Gender equality in support structures for entrepreneurship SCORE: 3.3
Entrepreneurship is actively promoted in Belgium in view of the limited number of self-employed. Apart
from a few specific women-oriented initiatives, little or no distinction is made between the sexes; the
approach is gender-neutral. Also, where support and guidance for (starting) entrepreneurs is
concerned, no distinction is made between men and women. There are specific women-oriented
projects, such as the “Affaires de Femmes, Femmes d’Affaires” project of Crédal that offers training,
microfinance and advice. The Participation Fund (Fonds de Participation) does not offer a specific
product for women. Still, the organisation is well disposed towards women, as shown by the increasing
percentages of approved loans for women. Networks are also very important for women. Although
Belgium has a number of networks for women, women are less often a member of a network than
Gender equality in access to finance SCORE: 3.6
Access to finance does not appear to be the main difficulty for (future) entrepreneurs. Men and women
often finance their business with a bank loan. But because of their aversion to risks, women use their
savings to start their independent activity more often than men. Banks do not provide much or any
gender-specific information. On the other hand, women have equal access to government loans,
guarantees and microfinance.
- Childcare: Although the number of available positions in day-care centres has been expanded, the
supply still does not meet the demand. Since employees as well as entrepreneurs are affected, it is
worth the effort to investigate this problem further and to find a way to fulfil this urgent need.
- Education: Compulsory participation in at least one entrepreneurship-promotion project could
encourage Belgian youngsters to turn towards entrepreneurship.
- Women in the media: Female entrepreneurs should get more exposure in the press and the
media should give a correct and total picture of self-employed female entrepreneurs.
- Support: Belgium does not make a (large) distinction between men and women when assisting
starting entrepreneurs. Yet, a gender-specific approach could stress the aspects of
entrepreneurship that women find important such as security.
- Promotion towards specific target groups: The Belgians are still hesitant about self-employed
entrepreneurship. A promotion campaign or initiatives for specific target audiences could be more
successful, e.g. reintegration of women into the labour market.
- Financial information: It is recommended that (financial) institutions release to the public at large
their data and statistics with respect to men and women.
General national context High Ranks
France receives an average middle for entrepreneurship France
range score around 3. The 5
dimensions Gender Equality in Gender equality in 3 Gender equality in
Labour Market Inclusion and Welfare access to finance 2 society
Bridges to Self-Employment (3.2) and 1
Gender Equality in Access to Finance
(3.5) receive the highest scores of all Gender equality in
Gender equality in
support structures for
dimensions. The dimension Gender labour market inclusion
Equality in Support Structures for
Entrepreneurship scores lowest (2.2). Gender equality in
National Scorecard Results for France vs. high ranks
General National Context for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 2.8
The General National Context for Entrepreneurship in France is evolving, but reductions in social
charges are not yet significant enough to encourage many of those working informally to register their
businesses. The socio-cultural context in France does not favour entrepreneurial activity. France is
below average for supporting individual success and does not have a culture of risk taking. Even so,
attitudes are changing. A national policy or strategy to promote entrepreneurship does not exist. There
are several government initiatives administered by different ministries and departments and at different
levels. At regional and local levels there is often insufficient coherence and programme visibility.
National public support structures to promote entrepreneurship also do not exist, but there are four
structures with national networks and five providing financial support to financially excluded
entrepreneurs. The financial situation of many entrepreneurs is difficult. Thirty-six percent of new
businesses started in 2002 did so with less than 4,000 euros. France has strong support networks for
those excluded from mainstream finance. It has the best microloan coverage in Western Europe and
several loan guarantee programmes to assist the excluded to leverage bank finance.
Gender equality in society SCORE: 2.7
Gender equality is on the national government agenda in several policy areas and appears to be a
priority in two policy areas: Professional Equality and Political Representation. However there is a
lack of measurable and time-bound objectives, which makes it difficult to monitor implementation and
achievement of goals. In terms of economic well-being and professional equality, the risk of poverty is
higher for women than for men in France, more women are unemployed than men, women earn less
than men and they have fewer assets. Even so, France has one of the lowest pay gaps in Europe and
addressing the pay gap is high on the government agenda. Nevertheless, experts report little real
progress due to inadequate government budgets and insufficient will on the part of many employers.
For political representation, important advances were made during the recent legislative elections with
France moving from 21st to 15th position amongst EU 25 countries.
Gender Equality in Labour Market Inclusion and Welfare Bridges to Self-Employment
France has one of the highest female activity rates in the EU and one of the lower gender income
gaps. However, looking more closely at this rate, one-third of French women (as compared to 6% of
men) work part-time. Of female part-time workers, 40% work part-time by necessity because of
insufficient means for reconciling family and work life. There is a 10% negative labour market
participation difference between women with children and women without children. While over-three
childcare provision rates are amongst the highest in Europe, only 20% of children in the under-three
age group are in publicly funded childcare. Compared to other countries in the study, there is above
average gender equality in access to welfare bridges from unemployment to employment.
Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment SCORE: 2.7
France has one of the lowest rates of female participation in entrepreneurial activity amongst
OECD countries. According to the most reliable INSEE SINE data for 2002, the rate of female start-
ups and business take-over is 29%, lower than in 1998. Women’s businesses also experience greater
failure rates than men’s businesses three and five years after launch. This is the result of different
factors. Social infrastructure available to salaried workers is not available to the same extent to the
self-employed. Childcare availability, hours and waiting list systems are generally not designed for
entrepreneurs. Women are also less likely to start their businesses in a sector where they have
previous experience and qualifications. In addition, women start businesses in person-to-person
services and retail trade, highly competitive sectors with low profit margins. Women also start their
businesses with fewer physical assets and financial resources than men do. In addition, women tend
to have modest business growth objectives.
Gender Equality in Support Structures for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 2.2
Progress is needed to achieve Gender Equality in Support Structures for Entrepreneurship. There are
important gender differences in entrepreneurship in France yet at present there is no national strategy
for addressing these. The agreements signed by the former government’s Ministry for Parity at the end
of 2006, whilst significant, are not supported by an analysis of women’s entrepreneurship and they are
not joined together by a single vision or set of targets for women’s enterprise. Several interesting
initiatives tailored to women’s specific training, advice and support needs are being implemented,
however. These initiatives exist thanks to the particular interests of local staff and funding available in
individual regions and departments. In many instances EU Equal Programme resources support these
efforts. However, training and support developed specifically for women entrepreneurs do not exist on
a nation-wide basis. In addition, adapted services are not provided in a consistent nation-wide manner
by structures working with both sexes.
Gender Equality in Access to Finance SCORE: 3.7
Gender Equality in Access to Finance proved difficult to assess. Women tend to start their businesses
with fewer resources than men do and are more likely than men to start their businesses with 2,000
euros or less. Women access government entrepreneurship assistance programmes for unemployed
persons at rates slightly above the national female entrepreneurship rate of 29%. Amongst the various
actors, microlenders are reaching women at the highest rates. These organisations are reaching
women at a rate three to six percentage points above the national female entrepreneurship rate.
Nevertheless, given that microcredit aims to reach those at greatest risk of social and financial
exclusion, one could argue that the lending rates should be much higher.
Government /Policy makers
- A National Strategy for Women’s Entrepreneurship is needed. This strategy should link together
individual government pronouncements, targets and the agreements signed in 2006.
- Government should increase its efforts to promote entrepreneurship skills such as risk taking,
creativity and experimentation. Current entrepreneurship training and education initiatives in
secondary schools should be made available nation-wide and at primary level. In addition, special
programmes to encourage girls to choose scientific, technology and business-related degrees
- Childcare provision options for families where one or both parents are business owners need to be
- There are very few role models and women business owners are under-represented in the media.
Government, the business community and the media can reinforce efforts to improve the social
legitimacy of entrepreneurship and women’s enterprise.
- There is a need for networking opportunities for women business owners to be available wherever
women reside. In addition, a strategy needs to be found for ensuring that through these networks,
the concerns of women entrepreneurs are heard at a national level. In so doing, networks should
not lose sight of the fact that 90% of women’s businesses are microenterprises.
- Training and awareness-raising aimed at practitioners regarding the importance of adopting a
gender-aware approach to enterprise support is recommended. Like government, practitioners
also need to adopt a strategic vision for women’s enterprise with specific objectives and targets.
They also need the political will to implement them.
Finance and Funding Providers
- Access to finance for female entrepreneurs is a challenge. The most important gender gap exists
in the volume of financial resources used at the outset. Efforts to make the government guarantee
fund to improve women’s access to bank lending available to more women should continue to be
encouraged. For microcredit, providers would be better able to reach women if they developed a
strategy with respect to women’s entrepreneurship. French microlenders should aim to reach
women at rates at least equivalent to women’s representation in the population.
- Strong links between universities, the national statistics agency INSEE and APCE could serve to
address the lack of analytical and longitudinal work on women’s entrepreneurship.
Germany is not outperforming in any
of the dimension scorings. On General national context High Ranks
average it receives a middle range for entrepreneurship Germany
score below 3. The dimension 5
Gender equality in society receives Gender equality in 3 Gender equality in
the highest scoring of all dimensions, access to finance 2 society
yet it is not stunning and only 1
average compared to results of the
Gender equality in
other countries in the study. The Gender equality in
support structures for
dimensions gender equality in labour entrepreneurship
labour market inclusion
market inclusion and Welfare Bridges
to Self-Employment as well as Gender equality in
gender equality in entrepreneurship entrepreneurship
score lowest, leaving lots of potential
to improve the environment for
National Scorecard Results for Germany vs. high ranks
General National Context for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 2.7
Although GDP growth has been below the OECD average during recent years, the GDP per capita
and the net real income per capita in Germany are still well above the OECD average. The public
support structure for enterprise development in Germany is comparatively well developed. The
physical infrastructure is among the best in the world. The level of entrepreneurial culture in Germany
is low compared to the other countries in the study. In particular, the impact of risk avoidance
behaviour on entrepreneurial activity is stronger than in other European countries. Administrative
burdens for conducting business activity are traditionally high in Germany, although recent reform
efforts have improved the situation. Income support programmes for self-employment out of
(registered) unemployment are in place and have led to high numbers of start-ups out of
unemployment in recent years. The access to external finance for start-ups in Germany has worsened
rapidly during recent years. In particular, micro and small enterprises face greater difficulties compared
to medium-sized enterprises. A national microfinance sector is not well developed yet.
Gender Equality in Society SCORE: 3.3
Gender equality as such is rising on the national governmental agenda in Germany. But on the local
level, according to the experts asked, gender equality and especially gender equality in
entrepreneurship is not treated as a priority issue in local development strategies. Socio-economic
gender equality in Germany is more highly developed than in other countries, but women still face a
greater risk of poverty than men, especially lone parents. Women are still under-represented in
leadership and decision-making positions in government, legislative bodies and managerial positions.
The higher the position the more they are underrepresented.
Gender Equality in Labour Market Inclusion and Welfare Bridges to Self-Employment
Women’s participation in the German labour market is far from being equal to that of men. While
Germany exhibits an average female activity rate compared to other EU member states, the gender
pay gap is still one of the highest across Europe. A significant part of this gap is the result of wage
discrimination, especially in Western Germany. Additionally, there exists a clearly visible gender gap in
the employment impact of parenthood. This is connected to persistent role models and lack of
infrastructure for reconciliation of family and work. Different European reports rated the provision of
childcare services for under-threes in Germany as highly inadequate. Although the subject is now high
on the government agenda, progress in this area is slow.
Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment SCORE: 2.3
Statistical data for Germany indicate a bigger gender gap in self-employment than the EU 25 average
at relatively low rates of overall self-employment. The gender gap is even higher in early
entrepreneurship activity, as defined by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). Part-time self-
employment and solo-entrepreneurship are much more prevalent among women than men in
Germany. This is one reason why the average number of employees and the average annual turnover
of women-led enterprises are distinctively smaller than those of enterprises led by men. Regarding the
entrepreneurial culture, German society is still dominated by a rather traditional picture of male role
models, which is also reinforced through the media.
Gender Equality in Support Structures for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 2.8
The consideration of specific needs of women and men is not very widespread in the design of
mainstream promotion activities for fostering entrepreneurship in Germany. The number of specific
programmes targeting women or programmes taking women‘s needs into account is not sufficient yet
and needs to be enlarged. Systematic and regular research activities on gender aspects of
entrepreneurship do exist in Germany, though experts are critical that statistics on gender aspects and
gender disaggregated data are only available on a limited scale and do not cover all relevant aspects.
There are some innovative examples of the use of gender research results to improve policy
measures and the practice of the support structures for entrepreneurship in Germany. But this is still
Gender Equality in Access to Finance SCORE: 2.4
It can be stated that, on average, female entrepreneurs have lower capital needs and use less own
financial start-up resources than their male counterparts in Germany. Regarding access to bank
finance, it can be stated that women make fewer credit applications than men in Germany and experts
report a difficult situation for women in communicating with banks. Additionally, latest available
statistical data reveal a declining share of female entrepreneurs in the mainstream programmes of
public financing. In regard to this, given the overrepresentation of women in socially excluded groups
like single parents at the risk of poverty and the high number of female start-ups out of economic
inactivity, female entrepreneurs can be considered as a key target group for microlenders in Germany.
Nevertheless, the limited available data support the thesis that the full potential is not tapped yet.
Summing it up, the study revealed that there is a strong case in Germany for
- Fostering strategic policy options on gender equality in entrepreneurship at all levels:
government, financial service providers and business support organisations
- Promoting female entrepreneurship and
- Increasing the share of 7,6% self-employment in total female employment to at least the
male share of 14%.
The recommendations that follow have been developed from the findings of the project and are aimed
at four key groups: policy makers, practitioners, funding providers and researchers. This is because all
four constituencies have a role to play in improving economic and social opportunities in general and
for women in particular in Germany.
Key Target Group Policy recommendations
Government /Policy makers - Create better conditions for reconciliation of family and work
- Foster gender mainstreaming in society and the labour
- Invent policy measures for more gender equality in wages
- Consider specific gender needs in the design of support
- Foster networking with successful businesswomen
- Make welfare bridge support available to people becoming
self-employed out of inactivity
- Enforce systematic data collection
- Set incentives for gender specific quality standards in
institutions providing Business Development Services (BDS)
Practitioners - Develop and implement quality standards for the provision of
- Increase awareness of women in German business life
Finance and Funding - Collect gender-aggregated data on a regular basis
Providers - Enable access to gender-specific statistical data
- Take gender-specific needs into account in the design of
Researchers - Channel research on female entrepreneurship in a more
- Conduct consistent research as regards financing of women
Since female entrepreneurs display very distinctive characteristics, a “one size fits all” strategy does
not seem capable of changing this situation. Policy instruments should rather be based on the
experiences in other countries with similar problems. The approach of the project on the European
level will help in the task of identifying such options.
Hungary is in the middle range in the
dimension scorings. On average it
receives scores between 2 and 3. General national context High Ranks
The dimension Gender equality in for entrepreneurship Hungary
society receives the highest score of 5
all dimensions; still this is exceeded 4
Gender equality in 3 Gender equality in
by three of the other countries in the access to finance 2 society
study. In most of the dimensions, 1
Hungary ranks 3rd or 4th among the 0
eight compared countries, however in Gender equality in
Gender equality in
the dimension General National support structures for
labour market inclusion
Context for Entrepreneurship it ranks
last. This problem is generally Gender equality in
recognised in Hungary and is high on entrepreneurship
the national agenda.
National Scorecard Results for Hungary vs. high ranks
General National Context for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 2.4
Although economic growth and exports have developed favourably in Hungary over the past few
years; the extremely high level of budget deficit and other negative trends required immediate
measures. The convergence programme of Hungary, which was adopted by the EU Commission,
includes strict fiscal policy, laying significant financial burden on the population and enterprises;
slowing down economic growth and increasing inflation. However, as a positive change, reforms have
been started to decrease the administrative burdens of enterprises; these resulted in Hungary jumping
from rank 66 to rank 45 on The World Bank’s Doing Business list from 2007 to 2008. The level of
entrepreneurial culture is low and is improving slowly. Enterprise development institutions have been
in existence for a while but they operate inefficiently due to the poor regulation, the parallelisms and
lack of cooperation. Well-designed programmes to support future entrepreneurs do exist; but their
funding is limited. Financial institutions are still not involved enough in easing the microenterprises’
lack of resources. The number and total amount of loans has been improving; but the number of loans
with duration over one year is still very low. The microcredit scheme of the Enterprise Development
Foundations in the counties and the capital city (LEA Network) aims to provide funding to these
businesses, but only a fraction of needs can be fulfilled due to the lack of funding and flaws of central
regulation. These foundations were established in the framework of EU Phare programme in 1991.
Gender Equality in Society SCORE: 3.1
The Hungarian Parliament and the government have made laws that provide legal and institutional
foundations for women’s equality. Thanks to that, the number and activity of NGOs is increasing. Still,
women are underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions both in the public and the
private sector and there is a pay gap of about 11% between men and women. Hungary’s midrange
position in the world concerning gender equality is primarily due to the historical traditions and the
traditional roles that still exist in the social division of labour. On regional and local level, fostering
gender equality has only become an important issue recently in the Regional Operational Programs.
Gender Equality in Labour Market Inclusion and Welfare Bridges to Self-Employment
The situation of women on the labour market is still far from being equal to men. The share of part time
employment, which fits women’s social situation better, is very low. The activity rate of women in
Hungary is below 50% while the rate of men is above 60%. Compared to other European and OECD
countries, paid maternity leave is long and the childcare service network is good but its occasional lack
still creates a handicap for women on the labour market. Compared to OECD countries, per capita
funding of the social network is still high both in absolute terms and relative to the GDP.
Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment SCORE: 3.0
In Hungary, men own twice as many enterprises than women. A significant share of female enterprises
starts practically without or with a very low amount of capital. The owners of these can be considered
self employed according to international definitions. By international comparison, the share of self-
employed is high both among women (19.4%) and men (23.7%); many of them become entrepreneurs
out of necessity. 8% more women become entrepreneurs out of necessity than men. Businesses
owned by women tend to be more cautious; they generally hire fewer employees, but they also fire an
employee less willingly. Low representation of women in the media plays a role in the fact that they
also have a small share in the politics as well. According to international comparisons, Hungarian
families are the most characterised by the traditional division of labour, the overburdened situation of
women and acceptance of these facts by the people affected by them.
Gender Equality in Support Structures for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 2.6
Since the EU accession in 2004, the number and financial background of programs and measures
enhancing equal opportunities for women in enterprise development have increased significantly. With
the support of the Phare programme and later the individual Operational Programmes and other EU-
funded initiatives several programmes have been launched to help the successful founding and
development of female enterprises. There is no gender discrimination among business development
services provided by the LEAs to microenterprises; in general there are very few BDS services
targeted at female entrepreneurs. Amongst the 65,000 registered NGOs in Hungary there are only 60
that aim to represent women or consider themselves female organisations.
Gender Equality in Access to Finance SCORE: 2.2
Women own about one-third of microenterprises and 46.4% of them believe that they do not need
external funding. The need for external resources and the manager’s willingness to take external
funding generally increases in accordance with the size of the company. Lower willingness and ability
of women to take loans is indicated by the fact, that while among microenterprises their share is 35%,
less than 30% of the microloans are granted to them. According to the experiences of the microloan
scheme targeted at female entrepreneurs that was launched in the framework of this project, positive
discrimination (in the form of lower interest rates) is a proper way to encourage female entrepreneurs.
• There are significant opportunities in promoting female entrepreneurial activity to improve the
economic development and increase the employment level in Hungary.
• Female entrepreneurs could and should be encouraged by positive discrimination in counselling
programmes and supported microloan programmes to take higher risks (make greater
• For that, business development institutions that support microenterprises (also those owned by
women) should be strengthened and developed by the government.
Government /Policy makers
- Positive discrimination of women in support programmes instead of the gender neutral approach
- Encourage creativity in the school system; teaching and development of entrepreneurial skills
- Increase women’s representation in the media to improve social acceptance of female
- Complete the programme of reducing administrative burdens for enterprises
- Programme to support becoming an entrepreneur from unemployment should be improved and
- Social benefits and microloans should be provided for those who become self-employed (from
- Better emphasise indirect methods of business support and develop the support transfer network
and promote equal opportunity
- More care should be given to the design and the funding with regards to creating business
- Quality evaluation of BDS providers, creating nationwide networks of them
- Promote the networking of female entrepreneurs with the development of network cooperation and
management of LEAs
- Create forms of cooperation among business support organisations
Finance and Funding Providers
- Strengthen network cooperation of microfinance organisations
- Create an online database with gender specific data and make it widely available
- Design microloan schemes considering the needs of female entrepreneurs, using the experiences
from the pilot project as well
- Strengthen international cooperation and exchange of knowledge
- More systematic data collection on female enterprises with cooperation of universities, research
institutes and professionals; international cooperation in research
General national context High Ranks
for entrepreneurship Norway
Norway received an average 4
Gender equality in 3 Gender equality in
score of 2.9 on the Scorecard.
access to finance 2 society
The dimension Gender Equality in 1
Society received the highest score 0
of 4.0 and the dimension Gender Gender equality in
Equality in Access to finance Gender equality in
support structures for
received the lowest score of 2.0. labour market inclusion
Gender equality in
National Scorecard Results for Norway vs. high ranks
General National Context for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 2.9
In the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Norway is rated as one of the most entrepreneurial
countries in Europe. In contrast to EU countries, where only small changes have been observed in
early phase entrepreneurship from 2004 to 2006, Norway has increased its index from 7.1 in 2004 to
9.1 in 2006.
The entrepreneurial opportunities, enterprise culture and policy incentives for entrepreneurship score
relatively high, whereas there is still a way to go concerning entrepreneurial abilities, welfare bridges
and access to finance.
Gender Equality in Society SCORE: 4.0
Gender equality is an issue in governmental policy in Norway, at a regional level the picture is more
fragmented and at a local (municipality) level these issues are in focus to an even lesser degree.
On the UNDP HDR Gender Empowerment Measure Norway is ranked number one. Still, a number of
challenges to gender equality remain and new gender issues keep surfacing. In Norway, gender-
specific measures focusing on correcting the imbalances between the genders can be targeted at men
Gender Equality in Labour Market Inclusion and Welfare Bridges to Self-Employment
In general labour force participation in Norway is high, and in 2005, 69% of women aged 16-74
belonged to the labour force, for men this rate was 76%. (Women and Men in Norway, 2006)
Women earn less than men, and more women than men work part-time. The gap in earnings is partly
due to part-time work, but also because women more often than men tend to work in the lower paid
public sector, while men work in the private sector.
Norway has one of the best parental leave systems in the world, and the policy for kindergartens has
improved a lot in recent years.
In Norway there is theoretically no gender inequality in the design of welfare bridges. But as women
earn less than men and more often work part-time, this inevitably leads more men than women to be
entitled to benefits based on work hours and income.
Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment SCORE: 2.7
As mentioned, Norway scores high on the 2006 GEM index, but there still is a great gap between men
and women. 21% of Norwegian men are business owners, whilst the number for women is 9%. One of
the reasons for this gap could be that the parental leave for sole trader businesses is not as good as it
is for employees. This may keep young women away from starting up their own businesses.
A study of media representation of women’s entrepreneurship in Norway (Ljunggren & Alsos, 2007)
showed that only 9% of the articles in the newspaper dealing with entrepreneurs are about female
entrepreneurs. This leaves us few role models and a low culture for women entrepreneurs.
There are few networks and associations for female entrepreneurs in Norway, and there is no
nationwide association which organises this group.
Gender Equality in Support Structures for Entrepreneurship SCORE: 3.1
The latest overview of the policy directed towards promotion of entrepreneurial activities and local
measures for gender equality in entrepreneurship in Norway is from 1999 (Pettersen et al. 1999). This
overview indicated that quite a few support measures are gender neutral, but that the consequence of
this is that they are “male support schemes”. The reason for this is that the industries and activities
supported are the industries and activities within which men start-up their businesses.
Gender Equality in Access to Finance SCORE: 1.8
Gender plays an important role when it comes to the differences in the amount of loan and equity
capital raised to develop a new business. According to Alsos et al. (2006), there are no differences in
the amount of financial capital men and women entrepreneurs report they need to start up and
develop their business. But they did find that women managed to raise a lower amount of total
financial capital both at the time of registration and 19 months later.
There is no research or study on bank financing and women entrepreneurs. A small study on Venture
Capital funding revealed an industry with few women present in decision-making positions and
priorities of industries which are male-dominated. Women-dominated industries are not perceived as
innovative and this is one of the reasons why women entrepreneurs are excluded from most of the
existing public finance measures.
A study of Innovation Norway grants for entrepreneurs showed that, in spite of a body of rules stating
that women entrepreneurs should receive 40% of the grants, they managed to allocate only 34,8% of
the grants to women.
Government /Policy makers
- Raised awareness in schools, media and society about untraditional educational choices for
boys and girls
- Use of role models
- Show successful female entrepreneurs in media
- Prize for “the female entrepreneur of the year”
- Support women’s business networks
- Contribute to a nationwide association for women entrepreneurs’ networks
- Self-employed people have to be offered equal rights to employees.
- Renewed awareness on gender mainstreaming and special efforts towards women in policy
- Support schemes for sectors in which women start up businesses (e.g. trade and service)
- Strengthen the work at the municipality level to support entrepreneurs
- The perception of the concept of innovativeness needs to be updated within the business
support system; this will allow women’s businesses to be regarded as innovative and in a
position for public measures.
- Involve immigrant women to a larger extent in self-employment and by doing so, use their
Finance and Funding Providers
- New financial measures must be introduced, e.g. Venture capital fund for potentially high-
growth service businesses
- Access to finance for women entrepreneurs regardless of geographical location
- A research programme specifically aimed at gender and entrepreneurship
- Studies on banking and financing
- More knowledge about microcredit organisations