Entrepreneurship is women too

As many as 126 million women in 67 countries around the world are starting to run their own businesses. Another 98 million are female owners of established enterprises, who carry out their ambitions and dreams whilst also creating workplaces for others. Some 13 million female entrepreneurs are planning to hire another 6 people over the next 5 years.

In countries of low and average income there are far more newly created enterprises than in the wealthier countries. And when it comes to women’s commitment to the creation of new economic activities, the gap between different countries is very wide indeed.  In developing countries, women are more likely to be running their own businesses.  (In the lead are African countries such as Zambia, where 40 percent of women run their own enterprises).

As indicated in the research results from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013 Global Report, entrepreneurship is a perfect choice when it comes to life fulfilment, as well as job satisfaction from professional work. Furthermore, in highly developed countries (with economies based on innovation) female entrepreneurs reach higher levels of life fulfilment than their male counterparts.  It is similar in Poland. Here women represent 51.6% of the general public and more than 50% of the population in production age. The entrepreneurship of women in our country is among the highest in the European Union (we take 9th place). The proportion of enterprises lead by women is 33,4% against 31% in the entire EU. This means that every third company in Poland was founded by and is led by a woman.

As shown by the latest results of research carried out by PARP (Polish Agency for Enterprise Development), more than 29% of adult women believe that the conditions required to start their own business within the next six months are good (only 23% of men are of the same opinion).  In this regard, Polish women can be classified as optimists. When compared to other EU countries we are holding 8th place in terms of positive perception of market opportunities.

Photo: Elwira Niedźwiecka

One of the reasons restricting Polish women from realizing their entrepreneurial plans, is a lack of confidence. Only 40% of adult women vs. 64% of men think that they are competent enough to establish a company. In comparison with other EU countries, we do very well regardless of gender. We take 6th place when it comes to women thinking of themselves as future entrepreneurs, but more notably we are first when it comes to the self-esteem of men in this category!

The second reason is undoubtedly the fear of failure. Poles together with the Greeks and Italians are, in this respect, the most reticent of EU nations.  Almost 60% of Polish women and 54% of men did not attempt to set up a company because they were afraid of market failure.

It is worth noting that in the case of entrepreneurships at an early stage of their development (TEA) the percentage of companies founded by women is growing. Meanwhile the difference between the number of enterprises run by men and those run by women is closing.  TEA for men in 2011-2013 decreased from 13.1 to 12.3%, while that for women increased from 5.1 to 6.1%. In the more established entities (operating beyond 3.5 years), we are also seeing a rapid increase in the percentage of enterprises run by women (from 2.9 to 3.8%) However, the higher growth in this category still comes from companies owned by men (with 7.1 to 9.2%).

The latest available data from GUS (Central Statistical Office of Poland) shows the increasing share women hold in micro-enterprises.  Among owners, co-owners and non-paid helping family members (partners working in a company without a contract of employment) are women from 26% in 2010 to 28% in 2011). Most of these companies are service companies qualifying for groups, other service activities, accommodation catering and health care. We note that women have still made the least impact in the businesses of construction (5%) and transport (9%).

The test results PARP “Women entrepreneurship in Poland” did not indicate differences in attitudes amongst existing female or male entrepreneurs.  All owners of small businesses have similar hopes, expectations and concerns, and face similar institutional barriers and fluctuations. But it is men, both in Poland and other countries of the EU and the world, who are the owners of most enterprises. An important factor influencing this situation is the burden women have in caring for children, especially young children.  A study conducted by us showed that women running businesses have strong feelings about the shortcomings in the system of childcare.  And although a first step was taken in 2011 when a law was introduced allowing for greater flexibility in establishing nurseries or children clubs, and to facilitate the employment of a nannies – it seems that there is still a lot to be done.

The experiments of PARP in projects related to the promotion of women entrepreneurship (e.g. Women for Women) show that female entrepreneurs expect personalized support. For example, they seek professional assistance, coaching, and mentoring. Networks uniting business women were welcomed, particularly in the form of clubs or support groups where relevant issues (e.g. the conduct of business) could be discussed. Participants could then share their own experiences and improve their potential. Such networks are important to allow economically inactive women to engage in the challenge of running their own business.

Here we have a high number of economically inactive women, but we know that given the opportunity and favourable conditions, 50% of them might seek to engage in the challenge of running their own business.  It seems that in this area too, there is still a lot to be done.

Anna Tarnawa, kierownik Sekcji Badań i Analiz
Polska Agencja Rozwoju Przedsiębiorczości
Photos: Elwira Niedźwiecka