What’s new in this report?
- A focus on micro-entrepreneurs: Data in this report, with the exception of the Future of Business (FoB) study, focuses on micro-entrepreneurs.
- Synthesis of rich data and multi-country exploration: The report builds on studies from ten countries across three regions as well as a global survey of entrepreneurs in 97 countries through the Future of Business (FoB) study.
- Strong policy focus: The report shares an overview of the types of policies and programs that can be put in place to support crossing over to the typically more profitable male-dominated sectors.
What are some of the key findings?
- Female-owned firms tend to concentrate in trade and retail industries, especially in textile and footwear, and pharmaceutical and perfume products, whereas male-owned enterprises dominate most manufacturing sectors as well as agriculture, forestry, and fishing.
- However, despite some common trends across countries we discuss in the report, there is no universal definition of which sectors are male-dominated and which ones are not.
- As such, policies to support female entrepreneurs who would like to enter male-dominated sectors will need to consider the specific country context to appropriately target specific sectors.
- Female entrepreneurs who operate in male-dominated sectors (MDS) outperform female entrepreneurs who operate in female-concentrated sectors (FCS) in all countries studied except Cambodia, where the opposite is true.
- Crossing over to MDS in many countries could help women entrepreneurs become as profitable (on average) as male entrepreneurs operating in MDS.
- In some countries, firms owned by men continue to do better than female entrepreneurs irrespective of the sectors they operate in, suggesting crossing over as only one promising tool in a broader set of policies to support female entrepreneurs. This might be a result of women clustering in less profitable roles/activities within the same sector, discrimination faced by women in male-dominated sectors, or other gendered barriers that limit female profits.
- Characteristics such as women’s education, past exposure to male-dominated sectors through work experience or training, exposure to MDS through male relatives, mentors, or role models, and spousal support appear to be positively associated with crossing over in almost all countries where these were assessed.
- Evidence-based programs and policies could support women to cross over and contribute to their business performance more generally. Based on the characteristics explored in the report, strategies that help to open up male-dominated sectors of the economy include: (i) safely connecting women to male mentors and role models, ii) providing early exposure to and training in male-dominated sectors iii) enhancing women’s education iv) increasing access to capital and loans and v) encouraging spousal support.
- At its heart, occupational segregation is a constraint on growth. Limiting workers to certain sectors based simply on their sex prevents the economy from making the best use of the skills available.
Since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been disproportionately faced by female entrepreneurs, we hope that this report will shape policies and programs that will enable female entrepreneurs to diversify to other sectors of employment, strengthening their income potential and ensuring the stability of their income in crisis situations.
Read our report for more information.