• Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs reveals top countries where female-owned businesses flourish
  • UK ranks 9th in the index with strong conditions for women entrepreneurs to thrive
  • But when it comes to proportion of female-owned businesses, UK ranks 26th, lagging behind countries including Uganda, Botswana, New Zealand, Russia, Bangladesh and the U.S

London, 7 March 2017 – While female entrepreneurship is often founded on necessity and sheer grit, strong supporting conditions such as access to financial services and ease of doing business pave the way for progress in businesses owned by women, according to findings from the inaugural Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs.

These enabling conditions are pivotal in overcoming the two main obstacles that most discourage women from becoming entrepreneurs – cultural biases and fewer opportunities for their advancement.

The UK ranked 9th in the index, with ease of doing business, a high quality of governance, support for SMEs and access to finance contributing to strong conditions that support women business ownership. Overall, developed markets top the index, led by New Zealand (74.4, 1st), Canada (72.4, 2nd) and the United States (69.9, 3rd).

Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs – Top 10 markets with the strongest supporting conditions and opportunities for women to thrive as entrepreneurs (scored out of 100)

1. New Zealand – 74.4

2. Canada – 72.4

3. United States – 69.9

4. Sweden – 69.6

5. Singapore – 69.56.

6. Belgium – 69.0

7. Australia – 68.5

8. Philippines – 68.4

9. United Kingdom – 67.9

10. Thailand – 67.5

On the other hand, the UK lags behind lower-income economies such as Uganda (34.8 percent), Bangladesh (31.6 percent) and Vietnam (31.4 percent), who have some of the highest percentages of women entrepreneurs. This is driven mostly by necessity as opposed to being inspired by business opportunities. The UK ranks in 26th place.

Women business owners as a % of all business owners – Top 10 markets

1. Uganda – 34.8 percent

2. Botswana – 34.6 percent

3. New Zealand – 33.3 percent

4. Russia – 32.6 percent

5. Austria – 32.4 percent

6. Bangladesh – 31.6 percent

7. Vietnam – 31.4 percent

8. China – 30.9 percent

9. Spain – 30.8 percent

10. United States – 30.7 percent

Untapped talents and fear of failure hampering female entrepreneurship in the UK

The study found that fear of failure, low perceived capabilities and opportunities, and untapped talents are holding women in the UK back from starting a business.

It found women are more risk averse than their counterparts, which contributes to the low female entrepreneur rate: out of every 100 women of working age, only 4.8 are planning to start an entrepreneurial activity or have started one for more than three and a half years. This is compared to 9.1 for men.

Low perceived capabilities also play a part. For instance, the percentage of population aged 18-64 who believe they have the required skills and knowledge to start a business is much lower in the UK (38 per cent) than the United States (53 per cent).

Similarly, perceived business opportunities are also lower in the UK (37 per cent) vs. US (51 per cent).

“The prevalence of ambitious, resourceful women should be regarded as a prime business opportunity. As society addresses existing cultural bias, we will do our part to help create those conditions that will strengthen and fuel the foundation for personal and economic growth,” said Martina Hund-Mejean, Chief Financial Officer, Mastercard.

The index suggests that countries with enabling conditions foster more Opportunity-Driven Entrepreneurs (driven by desire to progress) while countries with less conducive supporting conditions tend to breed more Necessity-Driven Entrepreneurs (driven by need to survive). It also explores varying factors that help or hinder women entrepreneurs.Woman Using Cell Phone --- Image by © moodboard/Corbis

  • In countries such as the Philippines (68.4, 8th), Peru (64.3, 23rd), Malaysia (63.9, 25th), China (61.3, 31st) and Mexico (59.1, 40th) supporting conditions for entrepreneurs are not very conducive, yet the local entrepreneurship landscape is highly energised and vibrant with very healthy perception of business opportunities and high regard for the status of successful entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs here are often driven by strong desires to succeed.
  • The low scores of markets such as India (41.7, 49th), Saudi Arabia (37.2, 52nd) and Egypt (34.0, 53rd) are indicative of the fact that cultural biases against women severely undermine their ability to rise to positions of leadership and take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • According to the Index, some of the biggest obstacles that hinder women from venturing into business include lack of financial funding/venture capital, regulatory restrictions and institutional inefficiencies, lack of self-belief and entrepreneurial drive, fear of failure, socio-cultural restrictions, and lack of training and education. In nearly all of the 54 economies covered, at least one or more of these constraints are holding back the progress of women as business owners.

“By increasing access to critical networks, our study shows that women are more able to recognize their full potential, achieve their goals and ultimately accelerate more inclusive growth. We have a fantastic opportunity to address cultural and organizational issues and further empower women leaders,” said Ann Cairns, President, International Markets, Mastercard.

The full report is available here:


The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalise on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments and is the weighted sum of three components: 1) Women’s Advancement Outcomes (degree of bias against women as workforce participants, political and business leaders, as well as the financial strength and entrepreneurial inclination of women), 2) Knowledge Assets and Financial Assets (degree of access women have to basic financial services, advanced knowledge assets, and support for small and medium enterprises), and 3) Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions (overall perceptions on the ease on conducting business locally, quality of local governance, women’s perception of safety levels and cultural perception of women’s household financial influence).

The index uses 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 54 economies across Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, Latin America and Europe, representing 78.6 percent of the world’s female labor force, differ in terms of the level of Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors.

About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.Mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard’s 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 Twitter @MastercardAP and @MastercardNews, join the discussion on the Beyond the Transaction Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

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