There are innumerous prejudices involved in a woman’s world – granted, many of those are changing, albeit stubbornly slowly. In many countries it is not the general rule anymore that women stay at home or stop their careers to take care of children. Salary equality can already be seen in some companies, and industries are not dominated by one gender anymore.
One of the fields where woman started being more and more present in recent years is entrepreneurship. According to research conducted by Inc. magazine, 18% of American startups were founded by a woman, and there are around nine million women-owned companies in the United States (which, despite the big number, represents only 28,8% of all businesses in the North American country).
In fact, the United States was elected by the Female Entrepreneurship Index (FEI), released in 2015 by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI), as the best place for a woman to start a business.
But hold on. How do they determine something that is more of less subjective? Not by counting the number of female entrepreneurs, they argument, but by “identifying a country’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of providing favorable conditions that could lead to high potential female entrepreneurship development” based on entrepreneurial environment ecosystem and individual aspirations. With this information, they grade countries with points that go to a maximum of 100. If the country scores below 50, it means that it has to make significant changes to be a good place for female entrepreneurship.
So, what are the best places for a woman to be a business owner? According to the index, the top ten are (in this order): United States (82.9), Australia (74.8), United Kingdom (70.6), Denmark (69.7), Netherlands (69.3), France (68.8), Iceland (68.0), Sweden (66.7), Finland (66.4) and Norway (66.3). Did you notice the disturbing information that is missing in this list?
Belgium. Belgium is not on the top ten. It is, in fact, the 13th in the list, with a score of 63.6, behind Ireland (64.3) and Switzerland (63.7), and before Germany (63.6) and Chile (63.5). Well, ok. Not that bad. But still.
There are other interesting statistics presented by the FEI. According to them, women tend to start a business later in life than men usually do (around their 40s) – but the age pattern changes when education is taken into consideration. Women who have higher education gather the confidence to become an entrepreneur faster than those who don’t.
There are also other matters that influence a woman’s decision to start a business, like family norms, religion-based mentality, access to relevant networks, social values and expectations, financial capital, legal rights, resources, etc. Countries that don’t have well-structured services of childcare score lower on the list, because as much as a woman wants to start a business, she rarely ever puts her personal ambitions above the need to make sure her children are well taken care of.
Ok, but what about Belgium? Here the strengths for female entrepreneurship are, according to FEI, the access to secondary education, SME support and training, and the developed tech sector business, while the weaknesses present themselves as lack of opportunity recognition, perception of skills and networking.
So, what does all of this tells us? Belgium is better than 64 other countries in offering a welcoming environment for female entrepreneurship, but it’s worse than 12 in that list. It’s a good place to be, but changes are necessary and important in a world that becomes more and more equal each day. In slow, but steady, steps.
Belgians are persistent, though. If the mentality is correct, then it’s only a matter of time until we climb on that list. What do you think about this? Is Belgium a welcoming country for female entrepreneurs?