Women in Business

A global analysis on business ownership,

top industries and confidence

27 September 2022


It’s estimated that 274 million women globally are involved in business startups, with an additional 139 million owning/managing established businesses. However, despite the incredible work of millions of entrepreneurial women around the world, the gender gap in business is still prevalent.

Key findings:

  • Amongst high-income countries, the United States has the 4th best gender split for self-employed workers with women accounting for 41% of the country’s self-employed workforce
  • Taiwan has the highest percentage of women who own established business at 17%
  • Greece has the highest percentage of women owning business in Europe at 14.7%
  • Taiwan is the leading location for older women entrepreneurs, with over 22% of country’s entrepreneurial women aged 55-64 yo
  • Information and communications technology (ICT) is the least attractive industry globally for women entrepreneurs with just 2% of women operating a new business in that industry
  • The wholesale/retail trade industry has the most early-stage entrepreneurial activity for women with 51%

At the current rate of growth, it will take an estimated 132 years to close the global gender gap in women’s economic opportunity and attainment. Although this gap is improving it still remains far too large with lots of work needed to close it completely.

Closing the gender gap and unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs would lift millions out of poverty, create jobs, and increase incomes, so it’s vital that countries around the world continue to work on gender equality.

We have analyzed data from sources including The World Bank, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and International Labour Organization to discover which countries are leading the way for entrepreneurial women and how Taiwan compares on the global stage.

Which countries have the most self-employed women?

According to self-employed figures by the International Labour Organization, Uzbekistan is the leading country for female percentage of self-employed workers at over 76% followed by Togo (60.1%) and Burundi (59.3%). All of the top 20 countries for female percentage of self-employed workers are defined as lower or middle-income. In these economies, levels of entrepreneurial activity can be a reflection of job scarcity and high labor force participation rates, for example, the World Bank estimates that only 7% of women ages 15 and up are employed as wage workers in low-income countries. In terms of countries defined as high-income, Brunei has the highest percentage of women within its self-employed workforce at 43.3%, followed by Luxembourg (41.2%), Uruguay (40.9%) and the United States, which ranks 4th with 40.8%. Taiwan ranks just outside the top 20 high income countries at 21st with 35% of the country’s self-employed workers being female.

High-income countries with highest % of self-employed women:

  • Brunei: 43.3%
  • Luxembourg: 41.2%
  • Uruguay: 40.9%
  • United States: 40.8%
  • Lithuania: 40.7%

Where do women own the most businesses?

Angola is the leading country for percentage of women owning/managing businesses with 35% followed by Guatemala (24.9%) and Burkina Faso (21.2%). For countries classified as high-income, Taiwan is the country with the highest percentage of women owning businesses at 20.9%. Taiwan is also the top country overall when it comes to women owning established businesses with 17% owning/managing a business over 3.5 years old. In fact, the highest rates of established business ownership for women were found in Central & East Asia at 6.9%, 1.3 percentage points higher than the global average of 5.6%. Greece has the highest percentage of women owning businesses in Europe at 14.7%

What are the top locations for women entrepreneurs by age group?

Generally, the 18-35 age group has the highest rates of entrepreneurial activity for both women and men but of course, there is no age limit to becoming an entrepreneur! In fact, older entrepreneurs are more likely to start businesses with higher growth and employment rates, generating more revenue and creating more jobs in their communities. When it comes to older women entrepreneurs,Taiwan is the leading country with over 22% of its women entrepreneurs in the 55-64-year-old age group, the highest percentage of any other country analyzed in the data. Morocco has the highest percentage of younger women entrepreneurs with over 74% within the 18-35-year-old age bracket. Italy has the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs aged between 35-54 years old at almost 89%.

Which industries are most popular for women entrepreneurs?

The wholesale/retail trade industry has the most early-stage entrepreneurial activity for women with 51% operating within that sector globally, compared to 43% of men. On average, ICT saw the largest gender gap in early-stage activity for entrepreneurial women with only 2% of women starting or owning a new business within that industry. However, women in some countries were more active than men in the ICT sector, with entrepreneurial women in Taiwan being 2.7 times more likely than men to start a business in ICT. According to the Kauffman Foundation, venture-backed private technology companies led by women achieve 12% higher revenue than startups run by men, so it’s important to encourage women in other countries to also embrace ICT as a sector for entrepreneurial activity.

Where are the most affordable places for women to start a business?

Sources: The World Bank: Doing Business Report 2020 & BusinessFinancing.co.uk

Flexibility and ease when starting a business is vital to encourage entrepreneurial activity. Globally, 49% of women believe it is easy to start a business in their country compared to 53% of men. According to World Bank data, Rwanda is one of the leading affordable locations for women to start a business, with no start-up costs involved and minimal days required. The United Kingdom and Slovenia also have low or no start-up fees, allowing women in these countries to register a new business without the burden of high administration costs. Although women in South Africa can start a business with minimal fees, the days required are one of the highest analyzed at 40 on average. New Zealand was the fastest place for female entrepreneurs, with official procedures required to start a business taking on average just 0.5 days to complete. Women in Taiwan can expect it to take an average of 10 days and over $200 to start a business.

Where are women most confident in business?

Women globally report on average 20% lower confidence than men in their capability to start a business. According to Inc, around 48% of female founders believe that limited access to mentors and advisors has hampered their professional growth, which may contribute to a lack of confidence when founding a business. Of the 43 countries analyzed by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, women with the highest rates of confidence in startup skills were based in Togo where over 92% felt capable of starting a business. At the other end of the spectrum, women in Norway were the least confident with just under 27% reporting confidence in their capabilities to start a business. When compared to men, women in Italy were roughly 1.2 times more confident than their male counterparts in their ability to start a business.

Where are women most fearless in business?

There are many famous quotes from successful leaders and entrepreneurs about the importance of failure in business and the learnings it brings. Despite this, women are less likely than men to be undeterred by fear of failure when starting a new business. At country-level, Kazakhstan reported the highest percentage of women undeterred to start a business due to fear of failure at 82.7%, followed by women in the Republic of Korea (79.9%) and Italy (75.9%). Women in Spain and Greece were the most likely to be put off starting a business due to fear of failure, with just 33.4% of women in both countries reporting that they’d be undeterred.

Where are women investing the most in businesses?

Studies suggest that female investors are twice as likely as their male counterparts to fund women-run businesses. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor also states that women investors are more likely to fund businesses offering solutions for female consumers and markets, so encouraging women to invest in businesses is a key part of closing the gender gap. It’s estimated that almost 6% of women globally have invested in a business, with women investing on average $1,474, roughly half of what men invest ($2,785). Women in the Republic of Korea invest the most in businesses on average at almost $25,000, over 16 times the global median average, closely followed by women in Cyprus ($ 16,469) and Israel ($ 14,489).

Taiwan in focus

Recently listed by Forbes as one of the top countries in the world for business, Taiwan is a vibrant hub for entrepreneurs. Mastercard’s Index of Entrepreneurial Women also lists Taiwan as the 6th best country in the world and the leading country in Asia for women entrepreneurs. According to data from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Taiwan also has the highest percentage of women owning established businesses and the highest percentage of older women entrepreneurs. Women in Taiwan are also world-leading when it comes to supporting and investing in businesses with the average woman investing $6,756, over 4.5 times higher than the global average. Although Taiwan scores well on many important factors, work still needs to be done to improve business prospects for women. Only 42% of women in Taiwan believe it is easy to start a business in the country, lower than the global average of 49%. Taiwan is also below average (4.5%) for the percentage of women engaged in early-stage businesses at 3.9%. Although women in Taiwan invest more than the global average in businesses, only 3% of women have actually invested in a business, which is lower than the global average of 5.8%.

Do you know an inspirational female entrepreneur?

On the world stage, Taiwan is one of only 27 countries to have a female leader, with Tsai Ing-wen recently named by Forbes as one of the most powerful women in the world, but you don’t have to be a world leader to be inspirational! TaiwanPlus is searching for incredible entrepreneurial Taiwanese women for a special feature so if you know an inspirational, hard-working business woman that deserves recognition for her work, email us at social@taiwanplus.com with your nominated businesswoman including why they are inspirational!


To establish the female percentage of self-employed workers, national figures for female self-employed workers were divided by national figures for total self-employed workers for each country. All self-employed figures were sourced from the International Labour Organization using the latest available data for each country. Countries with less than 10,000 self-employed workers in total were excluded from the data.

To discover the leading countries for percentage of female business owners, data from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor on the percentage of early-stage female business owners and the percentage of established female business owners in each country were combined for 43 economies.

All data for this report was sourced and collated in September 2022.

Data sources:


Women with Impact
Women with Impact

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