Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay are making the most for women entrepreneurs

Miami, November 20, 2019 – Gender-related biases are hindering women around the world from advancing their businesses. Yet, women entrepreneurs continue to overcome these challenges—having a direct impact on the labor force, economic growth and the well-being of their societies. Mastercard today revealed the third edition of its Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, celebrating the countries where women entrepreneurs are most likely to thrive while sounding the alarm that there are still significant inequalities that hold us all back.

Based on publicly available data from international organizations including the International Labour Organization, UNESCO and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the global Index tracks the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs and business owners across 58 markets (representing nearly 80% of the world’s female labor force) at three levels: (i) Women’s Advancement Outcomes, (ii) Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and (iii) Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors. The results reaffirmed that women are able to make further business inroads and have higher labor force participation rates in open and vibrant markets where the support for SMEs and ease of doing business are high. They are also able to draw from enabling resources, including access to capital, financial services and academic programs.

Out of the top 20 ranking markets, 80% are high income economies, fueled by highly supportive entrepreneurial conditions. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), while the majority of the region falls under the category of “upper middle income”, several markets stand out for the strides that have been made in terms of gender parity and improving supporting conditions for women entrepreneurs. In Ecuador, for example, an increase in women’s participation in entrepreneurial activities brought them at par with men. This suggests that in that economy, women are just as inclined as men to engage in entrepreneurship.

Women in Colombia and Brazil outshine their global peers in terms of business leadership (rank 1 for Colombia with 56.4%) and women entrepreneurial activity rate (rank 12 for Brazil at 93.51%, suggesting women are nearly as likely as men to be entrepreneurs). This is probably due to the low fear of failure rate in the region. Findings from the GEM 2018 Global Report showed that in every economy in Latin America, fewer than one-third of those seeing opportunities assert that fear of failure would deter them from venturing into a business. Furthermore, Costa Rica stood out at a global level as one of the top markets with improving supporting conditions for women entrepreneurs (+3.4%).

The findings also showcased women’s ability to thrive as business owners and pursue opportunities even where cultural and social conditions are not optimal. These are demonstrated in Brazil and Uruguay, where women’s business ownership rates and Improvement-Driven Opportunity entrepreneurial tendencies are both high in spite of the lack of cultural acceptance/social encouragement. According to the World Bank, 45% of economies around the globe have laws constraining women's decision to join and remain in the labor force.

“Women-owned and led businesses are strong catalysts for economic growth, improving the lives of everyone. With this study, we are shining a light on those under-represented because even today, inequality and exclusion still hold women back. At Mastercard, we believe good ideas come from everywhere.  Now is the time for governments and organizations to power together to support women to advance their businesses by eradicating gender-bias and ensuring greater access to education and financial inclusion,” said Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chairman, Mastercard.

In addition to shining a light on the progress of women entrepreneurs on a global scale, Mastercard is committed to designing a better world for women that creates limitless possibilities for us all. In the U.S. Mastercard is cultivating entrepreneurs through programs like Start Path and empowering small business owners in partnership with Create & CultivateIn Latin America and the Caribbean, our Virtual Accelerator program, created in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank’s ConnectAmericas for Women and the INCAE Business School’s Center for Collaborative and Women’s Leadership, provides training, mentorship, access to seed funding, and networking opportunities to women to accelerate their businesses. In Africa and South East Asia Mastercard is fueling women-led businesses with access to micro-credit and new digital marketplaces through platforms like Jaza Duka and the Mastercard Farmer Network. Furthermore, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth is providing philanthropic support to enable financial literacy training and access to vital tools and services for women entrepreneurs in underserved markets.

Download the full Mastercard Index for Women Entrepreneurs 2019 and infographic.

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The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019 is the third report profiling the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs/business owners across 58 societies around the world. With Angola as the newest market added to the Middle East & Africa region, the Index expands its attempt to track the factors that underpin the gender gap among business owners. Representing nearly 80% of the world’s female labor force, it highlights how the 58 markets differ at 3 levels: (i) Women’s Advancement Outcomes, (ii) Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and (iii) Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors.  The results also shed light on which factors and conditions are the most conducive in helping to narrow the gender gap among female entrepreneurs/business owners, or the most inhibitive and disabling, thereby weighing on women’s ability to thrive in business.

About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA), is a technology company in the global payments industry. Our global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on LinkedIn Twitter @MastercardLAC, join the discussion on our Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

Michelle Muslera

Manager, Communications  |  Mastercard, International Markets (IMK)