The gap between women and men in starting a business widened in South Africa last year, to one of its biggest since 2009, reveals the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (Gem) global report for 2015.
Men are 40% more likely to start a business there than women, show figures from the report, widening from 18% in 2014 and 25% in 2013.
The last time in South Africa that it was this wide was in 2009, when men were 42% more likely to start up. In 2002 men were 21% more likely to start a business, shows Gem data.
In 2015 just seven percent of all South African adult women were involved in starting or running a business less than three-and-a-half years old, compared to 11.6% of adult men.
The gap mainly widened because the rate at which men are involved in opening new businesses, was up from 7.7% in 2014, while it climbed from just 6.3% for women.
The 40% gap is larger than the average among similar (efficiency-driven) economies, where men were 27% more likely to start a business compared to women.
In India meanwhile the gender gap, though still large for a poor country, has been slowly closing. Men are however still 42% more likely to start a business than women. In 2013 they were 54% more likely to start a business than women.
However most of the businesses women start in poorer countries are survivalist firms. There women are 32% more likely to start a business out of necessity than men are. They are just 13% more likely to start out of necessity in places like the US or UK.
Interesting though is that in Brazil the percentage of women who reported starting a business out of necessity has climbed from 34% in 2013, to 56.7% in 2015. The recession there could be pushing more women to start out of desperation.
This year’s 2015 Gem report found that among the 45 economies participating in Gem surveys from 2013 to 2015, several showed year-on-year increases in ratios of both female to male entrepreneurship participation rates and female to male opportunity motivations, bringing these economies closer to gender parity in either or both measures.
They include three countries from Latin America and the Caribbean - Ecuador, Colombia and Panama.
It means to close the gender gap policymakers should encourage more women to start opportunity-based businesses.
Women are particularly absent in innovative firms. Acceleration programmes (such as the launch last year of Start-Up Chile’s S-Factory pre-accelerator from women or Enterprise Ireland’s Going for Growth initiative for women running high-growth firms) or specific lines of finance for women with good ideas and innovative firms might help.
Wider policies such as better child-care facilities at workplaces and longer paternity leave for new fathers so that they can share household tasks with their partners, could also help, as can clamping down more effectively on sexual discrimination in the workplace.
In addition helping to encourage women through better career advice and bursaries to take up university subjects often deemed more for men – such as those in engineering and science, could drive more women into more areas that are male-dominated.
Timm is a South African who writes on small business. Follow him on Twitter at @Smallbinsight and on Facebook.
Stephen Timm is a