Gender is a crucial aspect to be taken into account when designing policies and programmes that should be “gender-informed and sensitized”. In order to stimulate better knowledge transfer there is a need to understand the differences between men and women when looking at their readiness and willingness as scientists to go into business and/or create their own business.

The research and activities suggested below could be funded in various parts of Horizon 2020 and not only under “Access to risk finance”. It can include issues such as:

  • Study of the gender aspects of financing: how many women ask for money, how many get financed, how many female scientists, etc.? Is there any correlation or causation between female scientists and entrepreneurs and investment levels? What is the level of financial intermediation (i.e. debt, equity, etc.) in R&I intense micro-enterprises and SMEs?
  • Historical data assessments: consolidate data and information, disaggregated by gender, from various sources (e.g. Eurostat, PISA, International Fin Stats, WDI, etc.)
  • Develop “gender specific variables” and a related “checklist” for banks, financial intermediaries, venture capital, etc. to check and measure “gender aspects of financing”
  • Etc1 & 2

Women’s Entrepreneurship: closing the gender gap in access to financial and other services and in social entrepreneurship

A recent study requested by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality of the European Parliament aimed to identify differences between men and women entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. It explored the barriers and discriminatory effects that hinder women’s entrepreneurship, including access to finance in the European Union. […] The study was conducted using a combination of literature review and field research conducted in four case study countries in the EU: the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom. […]

The literature review showed that women accounted for only 29% of the 40.6 million entrepreneurs in the EU in 2012. Women entrepreneurs tend to operate in smaller businesses; usually go solo; tend to concentrate on sectors that are considered by financiers to be less profitable; tend to have lower growth and turnover compared to male-owned businesses.

Women entrepreneurs tend to self-assess the level of innovation of their own business lower than male counterparts. They tend to start off with less capital, borrow less and use family, rather than debt or equity finance.

Domestic circumstances often force women into periods of intermission; this hinders their ability to accumulate social, cultural, and financial capital, and constrains the generation of a respectable credit history.

Women entrepreneurs are more reluctant to assume a position of debt compared to men […] and generally have less powerful professional networks, compared to men.

The gender gap for social entrepreneurship tends to be smaller than for mainstream entrepreneurship. […]

Two key pieces of legislation were considered relevant for the study. Directive 2010/41/EU of the European Parliament extends the right to maternity benefits to self-employed women or spouses, or partners of those who are self-employed. Regarding the first, case studies suggest that women continue to struggle balancing raising a family with the demands of running a business. EU Directive 2004/113/EC prohibits gender discrimination. However, a problem is that indirect discrimination is difficult to prove, even though there appears to be evidence that indirect discrimination does occur. […]

All case studies suggested that women set up businesses that are predominantly in sectors that are female-dominated. These sectors are less attractive to investors or lenders. Women entrepreneurs tend to seek lower loan or investment amounts. This makes them less attractive to both equity and debt financiers who will achieve lower returns as a result of lower debt amounts.

Across the case studies, it was identified that banks and equity funders are less attracted to businesses that are run by individuals with a lower level of business experience. This places women at a structural disadvantage. It was also suggested in the Czech Republic that some banks directly discriminate against women who are on parental leave.

In all case studies socially constructed gender roles were reported to act as a barrier to women setting up and running businesses.

It was noted in all case study countries that there was a lack of angel investors […] who could be a benefit to women entrepreneurs. Furthermore, one of the key factors that affect women’s chances of accessing funding and growing business is the size of their professional networks.

In all case studies, women were reported to be predominantly responsible for the care of children or other dependents. This was a substantial barrier for women who wish to run businesses.

No case study respondent reported that EU legislation had made much of a difference to the situation of women entrepreneurs in their country.

Source: Katie McCracken, Sergio Marquez, Caleb Kwong, Ute Stephan, Adriana Castagnoli & Marie Dlouhá (2015). Women’s Entrepreneurship: closing the gender gap in access to financial and other services and in social entrepreneurship. Policy Department Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs - DG Internal Policies - European Parliament (PE 519.230, Document requested by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality). pp. 1-7


  • 1. Source: H2020-AG-GENDER (2015), p. 13
  • 2. which also recommends as a very practical example from the US, May 2014: “Gender Effects in Venture Capital”