How gender bias holds us back?


As a part of the SDG5 social media campaign, this blog post calls attention to the prevailing inequality and obstacles that women entrepreneurs face. The underrepresentation of women in some sectors of economy (e.g., tech, STEM, entrepreneurship) as well as their prevalence in others (e.g., health, education, social services) cause a gender gap resulting in an under exploitation of economic potential. Exploring the gender gap in entrepreneurship reveals deep-seated biases and gender norms that shape the job market.  

What roadblocks do women face?  

Previous research has highlighted factors that exist as roadblocks for women who are aiming to achieve their entrepreneurial endeavours. As women-led businesses and women entrepreneurs are underrepresented, the much-needed outreach networks for women entrepreneurs tend to remain small which in turn limits the access to information, external economic resources and funding. Technology industry is an example of a rapidly growing industry, with significantly less women representation and a lack of networking opportunities for women. In 2020, only 9 % of the investments in the technology industry in Europe were granted for teams with at least one female founder.  The Covid-19 gender impacts have uncovered the disproportionated division of unpaid domestic work of women and the existing social roles which continue to impede the feasibility of entrepreneurial endeavors outside home. 

The business world is represented through a majority of masculine attributes on leadership and success. Indeed, the narrative of successful entrepreneurs focuses on masculine-traits, such as ambition, aggressiveness, risk-taking and natural born leaders while women are socially oriented to care and collaborative work. As a matter of fact, to the question “Do you have the knowledge and skills to start a business?”, 32% of women said “yes” compared to 42% for men.  

Therefore, the imposter syndrome among women is preventing them from taking the first risks necessary to start a business, have growing ambition and succeed in the current system. As a consequence of constant undermining of their own abilities and ambitions, women are prevented to be recognized, and therefore, promoted in mixed gendered environments. In numbers, it is shown that only 3% of women are reported as nascent entrepreneurs and new business owners (18-64 years old) expected to create at least 19 new jobs over the next five years in comparison to 10.5% for men. This data may be complemented by the percentage representing the fear of failure which is 10% higher for women. In addition to the self-constraints women impose on themselves as a consequence of inequity in the job market, women business owners struggle because of discrimination from banks, investors, potential business allies, even family members and friends. 

Why should we care?  

According to the United Nations, gender equality is a crucial catalyst for economic growth and socio-economic development. Furthermore, harnessing the potential of women entrepreneurship is a step towards a more diverse economy. Diversity in entrepreneurship and the vast range of representation of entrepreneurs have the chance of fostering more diverse innovations and future solutions which meet the needs of more diverse groups of people. Now more than ever sustainable solutions and innovative digital advances are in need for diversity of perspectives in order to achieve sustainable and more inclusive futures. More role models and women representation in entrepreneurship would have a positive impact for the younger generation of women and girls.  

Alma Pyymäki & Meredith Chuzel-Marmot 

UN Youth of Finland’s Agenda 2030 Working group

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