CHICAGO Babson College and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor recently released the results of a comprehensive 2010 study about women's entrepreneurship around the world.
The 2010 Women's Report examined the attitudes of women in 59 economies.
In 2010, 104 million women representing more than half the world's population and 84 percent of world gross domestic product started and managed new business ventures. Reuters asked Donna J. Kelley, a Babson associate professor of entrepreneurship and one of the report's lead authors, for a bit of insight about U.S. women and small business.
Q: How do American women view opportunities for entrepreneurship?
A: Women in general have lower perceptions than men about their capabilities for starting a business. But typically in the U.S., compared to other parts of the world, women see more opportunities for entrepreneurship than other wealthy economies. The United States ranks highest among wealthy economies in terms of women's capabilities perceptions-their belief that they have the capabilities to start a business.
Q: So how does that compare with men's views?
A: Even though U.S. women tend to be higher in terms of capabilities perception, they are still a lot lower than men. What we might be seeing is that women need to work on their confidence and their perceived abilities. Look at the role models we see: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson - they're all male. Entrepreneurship has to feel accessible to women. There need to be local role models that say to women, I can do this. If capacities perceptions are not equal to men, then there's something there that we need to examine further. Is it the confidence level? Is it that they have lots of education but not the business skills? I would suggest it's more around the need for a practical education that lets women experiment with entrepreneurship and learn to become confident.
Q: What about U.S. women's view of the outlook for actually starting businesses?
A: Their opportunities perception looks like it's about average. You see much higher opportunity perception in Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Denmark, a lot of the Northern European countries. In the U.S. is it appears that there are a lot of women who have the confidence and capabilities but there's just not that perception that there are a lot of opportunities around entrepreneurship. In 2010, we were at a real low point for entrepreneurship rates. (They) had dropped substantially in 2009 and then again in 2010. There was a more pessimistic outlook. The recession had its roots in the United States -United States had low perception, so did Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal.
Q: What factors weigh on U.S. women's views about starting businesses?
A: Opportunity costs are high in the developed world. If I could work for IBM or start a business, it's got to be worth me not taking that job at IBM. In the developed economies you have four times the participation in the business service category than you do in the emerging economies. The customers are more other business - insurance, banking - they tend to be more human resource and knowledge-oriented. But in the emerging economies (women) may not have a lot of choices. They might be starting a small business that brings them some income and that might be their only form of income.
Q: How will women's views on entrepreneurship likely impact the U.S. economy?
A: Growth expectations are important to policy makers because that translates to job creation. It can also affect one's ambitions to grow a business. We calculate how many employees early-stage entrepreneurs expect to add over the next five years. In the U.S. women have about the same level of moderate growth ambitions as men. However, when it comes to high growth levels (adding 20 or more workers), less than 10 percent of women project this level of growth, while over 20 percent of men do. It's the growth that's the real issue. They have greater fear of failure than men.